ATLetic DEFEATED AFTER CONCEDING LATE ON PERRIN CUP THRILLER
GOAL SCORER (ASSIST):
1-2 (52′) DELV CLARKE (STEAL)
2-2 (75′) DELV CLARKE (MILOS KVASAY)
MAN OF THE MATCH AWARD: DELV CLARKE
VaHi ATLetic FC lost their inaugural 2012-2013 Perrin Cup game vs old-time rivals Terminus FC by a score of 3-2. The game was played at 1pm under cloudy conditions at Terminus’ home field, Hoskyn Stadium, at Riverwood International High School in Sandy Springs, Ga. The defeat truncated ATLetic’s hopes to advance far in Perrin Cup this season.
ATLetic’s game plan was to regain the balance between attack and defense that have characterized them this season in League play but that was missing in their previous week debacle against Piramex. Every team can have a bad day and ATLetic clearly had it vs Piramex so the team and management were determined to erase those memories, learn from their individual and collective mistakes and move on with a good performance in Perrin Cup. Having faced Terminus several times both in ADASL and on summer leagues the team knew that despite Terminus currently plays in a higher (D2) division, they could compete if they showed intensity, attention to detail and played smart football. Management UNDERSCORED that the team lines needed to be much closer together, both when pressuring high as well as collapsing in their own half, given the large pitch dimensions.
Despite these considerations it was Terminus who started the game stronger by creating the first chances of the game. It was clear they had prepared a very simple but effective plan to attack and it was obvious that their players had put in the hard work in practice to execute it. Terminus created chance after chance using one of Football’s oldest tricks: lift the ball for a flick at the first post and finishing on the second. The same play was perfectly executed early on: First on the 2′ of play but the finish hit the post and again off a long throw-in but this time with a clinical finish to the back of the net.
Stunned and with their skipper in the sideline nursing a hamstring injury, ATLetic tried to get back in the game. The team was able to balance the midfield and compete by pressing hard and winning the ball back. Midfielder Jose Baltazar began to find spaces and combining well with strikers John-Erich King and Delv CLarke. Around the 10′, ATLetic created a good chance when Baltazar dribbled deep into Terminus’ box and was tripped. Astonishingly the ref did not see it as a foul and deprived the team of a potential PK. It turned out this would not be the only controversial no-call in the game.
Team’s traded chances but it was clear that Terminus’ game plan was more effective. They continued passing in the middle and then crossing or lifting the ball for flicks that complicated ATLetic’s defenders. On the 29′, possession was lost by ATletic’s defenders with the team’s lines high as the team was getting out. Acres of space were then open for Terminus’ attackers who threaded a ball between defenders. Stilwell rushed out to attempt to block the shot when the striker passed the ball forward to a closing teammate who appeared to be ahead of the ball and in an off-sides position. Despite the attempts of ATLetic’s defenders Josh Merfeld and Brandon Joyner, the ball was slowly helped pass the goal line by the Terminus’ man. Another huge no-call from the ref on what appeared to be a clear offsides position.
With a mountain to climb being 0-2 down, ATLetic closed out their lines and got back to possession style football and immediately responded. Once again Baltazar was the brains behind ATLetic’s best chance of the half when he stole a ball in the middle, escaped the pressure from two Terminus players with some nifty ball handling and threaded a perfect thru ball for a rushing Delv Clarke. ATLetic’s star forward finished well with a low driven ball but the keeper was able to stop with his body.
The half ended with ATletic looking to regain their footing in the game while Terminus was looking to finish the game off in the 1st half. They were very close, again, using the same play over and over. First with a header after a long throw in that went just inches wide and then with a driven cross that was met with a powerful header in the 2nd post. Stilwell made himself big and cleared the ball and effectively kept ATLetic in the game.
On the 2nd half, ATletic was able to match Terminus in the midfield and kept composed but aggressive. Terminus was happy moving the ball around to kill some time but it was too early in the game to take the foot off the gas pedal. ATLetic’s constant pressure finally paid off in the 7′ when Delv Clarke took advantage of some lazy passing between Terminus defenders and keeper, finding ball in the box and easily putting it in the net. It was exactly what ATLetic needed to get their spirits up, an early goal in the half.
With plenty of time, ATLetic kept patiently finding chances and combining in the middle but Terminus defense held on. The battle became intense in the midfield with both teams fighting for the ball. Unfortunately that battle took a victim, Jeremy Nodine, who twisted his knee. ATLetic’s left winger had to be helped off the pitch for the rest of the game and will likely miss a few more matches. The MRI showed no meniscus or ligament injury but he might still be out with some patella damage that will need to be reassessed. Disappointing news for the Tulane Club man who had a great pre-season but had to miss a few games earlier due to an stress fracture. The team’s wishes him a quick and speedy recovery over the holiday break.
Midway in the half the teams traded chances. First ATLetic kept the ball in the ground and a good chance was created when midfielder Mauricio Lascano found Delv Clarke up top. The man from Birmingham, UK escaped from three defenders with strength and pace and passed it off to John-Erick King who was not able to connect a good shot under pressure. Then it was Terminus, with their familiar modus operandi, long ball from the keeper and flick header in the middle. The ball landed behind ATLetic’s Josh Mefeld who cleared the ball hiting the hands of a Terminus forward covering his face who gaining control of it and took a long shot that hit Stilwell’s post. ATletic defender’s had stopped playing, calling for an obvious hand ball that was again not given by the ref. Third no-call in a row against ATLetic. In this game it seemed that all controversial calls went against them. Refs, whether right or wrong, are nevertheless part of the game and over a long ADASL season things tend to even out.
ATLetic kept believing despite lacking fluidity in their game, in part because Terminus packed many players in the midfield and in defense to protect their lead. The equalizer finally arrived, however, in the 30′. John-Erick King won a corner kick that he took driving it to the middle. The keeper was unable to reach it and ATLetic’s central defender Milos Kvasay met the ball at the same time as a Terminus defender. A high deflection was again not dealt well by the keeper and this time Merfeld headed to goal. The ball ricocheted off Kvasay’s foot and blissfully landed in front of the most dangerous man in the pitch, Clarke, who blasted it into the upper netting. ATLetic’s hard work was rewarded. Their defender’s finally won balls in the air and gave Terminus some of their own medicine. In particular, Clarke’s all-around hard work was also rewarded. He has been on fire scoring braces (2 goals) in ATletic’s last 3 matches, often by stealing balls and pressuring high. His clinical finishes with his left foot and great timing to head the ball in addition to his strength, pace, ability on the ball, movement and high football IQ off the ball are too much to handle for any defense. His impact goes beyond scoring since he is also the team’s top assister. Congratulation to Clarke who wins MAN OF THE MATCH AWARD for the 3rd time in a row. Completing the “podium” for the day’s best performances: Jose Baltazar and Josh Merfeld.
With the 2-2 scoreline and momentum on their side, ATLetic felt they could win the match in regulation or at least have a chance to advance in PK shoot-outs. Perhaps the team lost focus thinking they had better chances going into the last 10 minutes of the match and forgot that Terminus had a very effective play. Once again, a long throw-in was flicked in the 1st post and headed to goal on the second post. The ball appeared to be going wide and Stilwell saved it but he was unable to keep it in his hands giving Terminus another chance on a corner kick. The ball was looped to the second past and despite man-to man marking, a Terminus player was able to connect the ball back to the small box where their big #9 was expecting it for an easy header down. ATLetic players were shocked, once again burned on the same routine just 2 minutes after finally being able to equalize the game.
Having experienced many football afternoons, ATLetic’s skipper made sure the team kept believing. After all, they had scored twice in the half and still had 9 minutes plus stoppage time to send the game to PKs. ATLetic went all in and applied relentless pressure in the form of long balls and corner kicks but Terminus’ defense held. In the 89′ Faris Gwahi came very close to head a corner kick on the 2nd post but his attempt went wide off his head. On the ensuing play ATLetic won a throw-in. King send it long to the box, the ball was initially deflected by Terminus but King send it back to the box for Clarke who was under heavy pressure and unable to finish or pass to the middle were Lobelo was waiting unmarked.
In the end a heart-breaking defeat for ATLetic. The team fought hard in the 2nd half and got back in the game but lack of concentration and intensity in the box to defend set pieces robbed them a chance to send the game to PKs. It was an entertaining, intense game that came down to the wire, typical of Perrin Cup and ATLetic was surely disappointed to loose in such a fashion and see their Perrin Cup dreams shattered early one. Despite the errors, management and players were happy with what was a gutty performance with every player giving their 100% effort. With a little bit more luck in the end and a few better calls from the ref the outcome could have been different. The players know they do need to work harder to learn and adapt from these mistakes, specially on how to deal with set pieces since they gave up 2 our 3 goals that way.
Moving forward the team’s attention will now move exclusively to maintain 1st place in the League’s 3 division. They know they have an opportunity to bounce back right away when they face Wings Masters next Sunday at 1pm at their home field, Boulevard Crossing Park. The team will be for sure looking to take advantage of this opportunity and move forward with the last two games of the season before holiday break. Stay tuned for team news and come out to support ATLetic in their quest for the D3 ADASL title. Games are free and open to the public!