It doesn’t take rocket science to realize a win to begin the season is a good thing- losing teaches lessons, but who really wants to learn that way? The Rafters picked up a win on Saturday against the Little Rock Rangers that left plenty of lessons to be learned, while working through chemistry development and a train-when-you-can type regiment.
- Rafters win, away in Little Rock 1-2
- new Formation
- Coach Bohn’s Philosophy- letting the team develop
The first thing to get out of the way when looking at this year’s Rafters is: what do we already know? We know that we have two players returning that have been pivotal to the defensive success of the team since its inception, Sean French and Lance Quini (his name is pronounced keen-ee for all those interested, known him for 7 years and just learned it last season). Both players have been exceptional and showed as much in this season away opener. Quini had a brilliant save in the 12th minute that embodies just what his presence between the sticks means for this team.
We know that there will most likely be formation changes, with Coach Phillip Bohn taking over in the off-season. With the last fact, you can be certain there will be some new faces in the Blue and Gold.
Coach Bohn set his guys in a modular 4-3-3 that could morph to a 3-4-3 with an aggressive fullback. That aggressive fullback to begin the game, was none other than third-year man, Che Walcott. Having been used in a number of positions, including forward in his first 3 seasons, it wasn’t a surprise to see Walcott take the team’s first touch in the opponent’s 18-yard box, playing right-back. With Walcott’s clearance to aid in the attack, French(RCH), Saul Camacho(LCH), and Alex Curry (LFB) were asked to shift to a 3-back system, as to not leave the gap in behind the right-fullback.
By Coach’s admission, this portion will need some work as the Rafters were forced to close in on an attacker with acres of space. This oversight is what led to the Rafters concession in the 15th minute.
The midfield worked as a central unit shifting to right or left as needed. Their positions were not strict by design, allowing for creativity and avoidance of exerting too much energy. Everyone had the freedom to rotate in the small triangle- cutting off passing lanes when defending and leading the attack. The chemistry of this unit will be paramount, due to the amount of work and communication that needs to be done. The preliminary results were good against the Rangers- Robbie Bruce, Daniel Aviles, and JP M. Santos did well once the game settled down 10 minutes in.
It’s rare that forwards do more work than anybody on the field, but for this formation a man’s work is never done. Lance Crabtree (RWF) was seen on three occasions intercepting the ball four yards from the Rafter’s 18-yard box. A tackle near your own 18-yard box can only be rewarded with a goal, as Crabtree scored the Rafter’s first of the season in the 16th minute.
The most positive thing gleaned from the Rafters first outing was attractive midfield combinations and player versatility.
12th minute– A poorly taken Rafters free kick 22-yards from goal leads to an interception by Nick Vasquez on the left flank for the Rangers with only 2 men back for the Rafters. Sean Keluo-Udeke receives the outlet pass, dribbling the ball toward the corner flag, taking note of the 3v1 advantage. He crosses the ball in the box, finding the man at the point of the break who receives the ball with one touch to settle. He shoots the ball as Quini simultaneously closes in. Rather than making a body save, which is usually as much as anyone could, Quini springs to his left with a hand reaction save- denying the Rangers their first threat on goal.
15th minute– The Rafters are dispossessed on the left flank near midfield. Rangers Keluo-Udeke looks up to cross the ball to the right-side [of the Rafters] to find an unmarked run by Alex Guadron, backside. Guadron takes two touches for a shot that is saved, however, rebounded to the feet of Keluo-Udeke. As Quini tries to poke the ball away, Keluo-Udeke spots the open net and bangs it in, far post for the first goal of the game. The prophecy that was declared on two other occasions ultimately came to pass, as the Rafters had to scramble to defend the same sequence that led to the goal. 1-0 LR Rangers.
16th minute– Yep. Only a minute later. The danger of the Rafter 3-man front manifested, as Scott Halper (CF), one-touch passed the ball to an overlapping Crabtree (LWF). With the overpowering pace of his long legs, Crabtree glides past his defender, spotting angle an on goal. The angle spotted is incredibly acute, but not enough to not try his luck with a thundering shot- near post. The shot zips past keeper Logan Valestin, giving the Rafters goal with aesthetic flare. 1-1.
69th minute– Sean French goes down after an emphatic clearance into the stands near the left flank. After a 2-minute adjournment, French is helped off the field. The injury was later diagnosed by Coach Bohn as a cramp for the Rafter’s center-half.
76th minute– Having being brought on to replace Walcott (later brought in at midfield) at RB, Tevan Peters continues to terrorize the right flank, getting in almost exclusive-forward positions. Peters beats his man on the right with plenty of time and space to cross the ball into Andres Carisquilla (LMF). The ball is intercepted by center half, Josh Ribbons but only to the benefit of the Rafters, after his sliding clearance directed the ball at the near post. The ball rebounds off the post into the path of Carisquilla, who casually tucks past Valestin– who did well enough to get with in a yard of the shot. 1-2 Rafters FC.
84th and 86th minute– After being booked for obstruction of a potential counter, (any player would have done it) Peters is cautioned again with no card for a two-footed tackle. Despite no card, Peters is oddly sent off but a player was allowed to come on in his stead. Not sure what that was all about, but I hope to see more calls like that for my favorite teams. Peters was not booked a second time for the foul and will not receive any further castigation.
“Before the game, we said we wanted to learn about ourselves as a team and build off of that. I thought both halves, we did exactly that. In the first half, when we got to their defensive third, we kinda lost our identity- playing a little too direct and impatient. So, we said at half time, if we want our identity to be a direct team, then keep doing it. But mainly, we understood we needed to relax,” said Coach Bohn.
“The second half still wasn’t perfect, but we showed a little more versatility and creativity. You were able to see little pockets of that where it looked really good. But the guys still aren’t all on the same page just yet. For me, the best thing was the guys grinded and really played hard while trying to figure things out. From start to finish, I honestly thought we out worked them. They seemed to be a little more organized and technical than us, but we worked hard which gave ourselves a chance to hang in the game and get fortunate with goals.”
[plays that led to goal opportunities backside]
It was lack of training in all fairness. This group has never been together for a full session. After that I told the guys, this is why you defend with three and they immediately said they understood. If we get exposed at the back like that, teams are just gonna come at you down those channels. I really didn’t stress things like that before the game because I wanted to see what their own tendency was without telling them what they can or can’t do. That helps me know where their heads are and see what we need to work on in training. Sometimes it cost you in the short term, but makes you better in the long term,” Coach Bohn said.
[estimation of where you want to be]
We’re at about 25%, if that, in where I think my evaluation is. We got about 6 or 7 guys still to come in that are quality players that make the team a little more versatile. We haven’t trained once with everybody together. In my opinion, the ability to use soccer IQ and togetherness is what they did today. Overtime, we’ll be able to get that continuity and a clearer idea of what we’re trying to do.
Sean French was mainly cramps and Robbie was maybe just too many minutes in the first half. But right now, nobody’s really injured– just some of them need at little bit of rest.
Shreveport Rafters FC
SonT- 4 SoffT- 3, Fouled- 7, Corners- 1
Goals & Discipline: 16’ G- L. Crabtree/A- S. Halper; 63’ Yell- A. Kirkwood; 76’ Goal- A. Carisquilla; 84’ Yell- T. Peters
Little Rock Rangers
SonT- 5 SoffT- 4, Fouled- 6, Corners- 3
Goals & Discipline: 15’ G- S. Keluo-Udeke
Possession: 51.72% RFC 48.58% LRR