The opening weekend of NJ Cup has seen a number of close games go down to the wire, a few go to extra time, and 2 go to penalties to decide the fate of teams. One of those games was Sunday 3/5 at Mercer County Community College which NJTravelSoccerBlog attended and was privileged enough to see two good teams in action. In the U13 Boys Premier Bracket – Match Fit Barcelona took on Pasco Rebels in what was a competitive battle until the very end.
The weather was cold – 40 degrees max – with 10-12 M.P.H. wintry gusts (blowing one way) making the conditions feel in the low 30’s on the turf field. Both teams had a minimum amount of time to warm up on the pitch as Match Fit was playing an inter-club scrimmage prior, so teams were forced to work outside of the fence and probably were not warm enough at the opening whistle. This theory was proven just 2 minutes in as an errant pass from a Pasco defender found an open Match Fit player on top of the box all alone, he still had work to do, but he surely finished making it 1-0 right away. However, 9 minutes later, Pasco would equalize as a Match Fit defender failed to find an outlet and Sagar Singh #9 made them pay with a cool finish down to the lower right. The cold weather combined with a short warm up really made the early difference, but as the teams got into the flow of things, the game really evened out.
It took until the 33rd minute for things to heat up when #13 (who I believe goes by Cooper) played crossbar challenge from 25 yards out. It was a really good strike from a player who impressed all day as a prototypical DCM. Halftime talks were very different, Pasco’s was stern and was about effort, drive, and fight. Match Fit’s was tactical and psychological about what the team needed to do to win. Both teams responded well in the 2nd half and played a game that sat in midfield because of it. I couldn’t count more than a handful of real chances between the teams until late in regulation. Match Fit took two shots – well struck – from distance that just went wide of the outstretched keeper and the post. Extra time was in the cards and honestly, you could see it coming.
Overtime saw just 10 minutes total fly by (rules are 2 – 5 minute halves). Then straight to PK’s, where who moves on was decided. The difference in penalties was Match Fit’s Gabriel Espada who came up with 2 big saves to help his team clinch 4-2 in the end. Both teams could have pulled this game out, and made the game competitive regardless of their drastically different styles of play:
Pasco Rebels: Are a strong, athletic group that use creativity and work off of their forwards Sagar Singh and Richard Malysa to drive the ball behind the defense. They played an organized 4-2-3-1 with a diamond in the back, which is from the bygone era, but the sweeper Jason Balbuena broke up a number of attacks with his positioning. Pasco is dangerous and can catch you on the break if you are sleeping with wingers who have pace and power to run straight by you.
MatchFit Barcelona: Have a structured, by the book, approach to the game in the same 4-2-3-1 shape. They possessed true DCM’s that tried to move the ball left to right #13 Cooper impressed as a holding midfielder. The creativity of #19 Osman (Ossie) Bayazitoglu stood out frequently and was often the way they moved the ball forward. They try and hold possession by playing back to their keepers frequently who are both good with their feet. MF Barca are definitely a technical team, that will adapt to play together as they are new group as of 2016/17.
*Match Fit Academy were recently announced as a founding member club of the newly launched Boys Elite Clubs National League, which will kickoff August 1 of this coming year.