For the majority of the month of May, the Rafters were thirsty for games with almost three weeks of no games. Then came the end of the month, where they’ve pretty much been water boarded with 3 games in a 9 day stretch and the results have not been pretty. The 1-2 loss to Brownsville looked like a team that lacks consistency and trust. Injuries and an arduous practice schedule at best have stained volume 2 of a great season.
Out of the these three matches the Rafters possessed better than the previous two, however, the lack of intent and purpose hamstrings the team going forward. The first half was mired in the defense pushing up with the ball, getting it to an attacker only to have that player take touches forward, subsequently turn their back to goal, and pass the ball back. Getting the ball in the defensive third was certainly an issue in the game, with only 6 shots total (one in the first half). The explosion of offense came within the last 15 minutes, as the Rafters began to exploit a team in Brownsville that wanted to claw their way to an away win rather than keep their foot on the gas.
The most exasperating part of the game for the Rafters is they seemed to play into the hands of Brownsville tactically. The Rafters are most successful when the wing forwards are able to get wide and hit crosses in the box or win a 1v1 on the wing. This usually comes by way of a big switch on a counter or working the ball quickly to the opposite side of the field. Brownsville allowed for those types of switches, by giving lots of space to either Angel Abregu (LWF) or Drew Fulmer (RWF). Four times in the first 30 minutes, Fulmer called for the big switch but was looked off by the potential passer. It’s evident the Rafters are the most dangerous when they take chances on switches, as Abregu’s 21st minute goal came by way of a clinical finish from a backside pass. (Abregu is the youngest Rafter and probably the youngest on the field).
Brownsville was content with letting the Rafters possess in their own half, with keeping a high line five yards away from midfield with minimal pressure. Due to an injury to first choice keeper Sergio Romero, Brownsville was made to deploy Peter Gross, who kept an unusual high line that was more of a makeshift sweeper-keeper. This concept was almost punished by the Rafters twice in the first half with some nervy clearances from Gross.
Brownsville’s commitment to their game plan was impressive, as they clearly aimed for a 9v6 approach when attacking- undertaking the risk of Rafters’ counter attacks. Their backline was determined to get numbers forward, sometimes leaving only two center backs at midfield while letting both fullbacks advance at the same time. Their first goal in the 31st minute came as a result of this, as Brownsville’s Archie Massen, formerly of Dutch Lions, delivered a pinpoint cross in the box from his right back position.
By contrast, the injuries have hit the Rafters the hardest on their back four. They have yet to have the same four guys in the back and that’s not by choice. Tevin Peters has been a mainstay and is arguably the best player on the pitch at any given time. However, rash fouls toward the end of the game unfortunately forced his substitution in the 78th minute.
This game featured two central midfielders at defense: Daniel Aviles (LB) and James Davies (LCB). It’s a shame it’s gotten to this point, because Aviles was impressive as one of three central midfielders in the preseason. While both performed well, with only momentary lapses, we hope to see both go back to midfield roles with injury boosts from Saul Camacho (CB) and Alex Curry (FB) against Katy FC, Saturday.
The long-term injury list includes three knees with Andres Carisquilla(F), Nick Hammond(F), Sean French(D), and Che Walcott(D). Of those five, Frenchy is the only one expected to see time back in a Blue and Gold uniform.
My advice to Coach Phillip is to tell his guy to not get hurt so they can continue to be a top team in the conference. I didn’t charge for that consultation.
21st minute– One of the first threatening ventures for the Rafters into the defensive third of Brownsville. A throw-in from the right side just outside the 18-yard box finds Steven Bush who flicks it backside to an unmarked Angel Abregu in the middle of the goal six-yards away. With the inside of his foot Abregu hits the volley first time, for a paced shot that went past the keeper’s left. Rafters first shot on goal merits the lead. 1-0 Rafters FC.
31st minute– #2 of FCB darts down the right side near the corner flag and delivers a cross that finds a Brownsville player first, but a weak shot attempt resulted in a rebound to another FCB player. #16 gathers the ball just outside the six-yard box on the left side and hits a cross to Andres Cervantes, who rips the ball in the middle of the net- Lance standing near post protecting against the easy opportunity. 1-1.
38th minute– An ill-advised and cynical foul on the left-hand side near the corner of the Rafter’s 18-yard box leads to a Brownsville free kick. From 22 yards out, Jose Sauceda drives the ball on the ground near post to find #16 marked by one Rafter. With his back to goal, #16 turns and takes a scuff of a shot far post, that finds its way in the back of the net. The speed of the turn and shoot is what made the goal possible for Brownsville. 1-2 FC Brownsville.
42nd minute– I was frustrated watching it and he was obviously frustrated as well. For the majority of the first half, Fulmer was free for a big switch but called for the ball to no avail. Fulmer swaps to the attacking mid role to get more time with the ball.
66th minute– Brownsville surprisingly starts to control the game through the middle with a flurry of shots.
72nd Minute– Rafter’s JP Santos (CM) comes out due to what was later described as a groin injury.
81st minute– Aviles beats his man on the left side of the 18-yard box to deliver a delicious cross in the center of the 6-yard box. The first and only to the ball is Seth Bos, who puts his first-time header just wide of the left post.
“There’s a lot of positives in there, but there’s a lot of lack of cohesion and training as well. We make little mistakes in spots that lead directly to goals and that rattles us. We scored a goal that slowed the tempo down and they kind of jumped back into it. There’s just too many mistakes to be successful right now.”
[players not playing natural position]
“It takes a lot to play out of position to help with some of the injuries and things we have and they’re doing it. You go out there with the most confidence you can have but sometimes you make a couple mistakes and it breaks that confidence. We had a center-mid playing left back and a center-mid playing center back and I thought over all they made more positive plays than negative. But playing back there is cruel because when a mistake is made it usually leads to goal scoring opportunities for your opponent.”
[How FCB defended]
“This FCB team was a little bit more well-rounded. I thought they squeezed the middle well in the middle third and knew what we wanted to do. Their goal keeper played a high line, so if the ball wasn’t spot on, he was going to collect it. We talked about that at half time and said it can’t be a straight ball on a straight run. We started to play some of those balls a little but more diagonally. But the problem was, our wingers were so narrow that they were running after the ball toward the corner flag instead of running on the ball towards goal.”
[potential injury boost and what to expect from the Katy FC Game]
“We sat some guys out today that weren’t quite healthy enough cause I didn’t want to see us play today and lose them for Saturday.”
“We’ve played them before but apparently they’ve added a lot to their roster. They created some problems for us in the wide channels, especially with their pace and shifty players up top. And then they brought a guy off the bench that kind of controlled the middle in the second half. Whether it’s the same group or a different group, we have an idea of how they want to play.”