Thursday, April 26, 2012

NEXT GAME; Sunday April 29th Vasco da Gama

After the rough and tumble of our unfortunate defeat to the Greenwich Pumas we now head to our first away game of the season against league leaders Vasco da Gama. Vasco finished third from the bottom of the league last year. However, they have won their first two games away from home beating Orange 4-2 and then Norwalk Mariners 2-0 and are clearly a good team and will be favourite to pick up the three points. But underdogs can win against the team most likely! Barca were almost guaranteed to be in the Champions League final but lost out to a pugnacious Chelsea team.

So, lets try our best on Sunday to make a good game of it. We are a good team and if we keep our shape and discipline will give a good account of ourselves

The game is at Veterans Memorial Park, Bridgeport with a 10 am kick off! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

MATCH REPORT; Madison 0 Pumas 2

Madison Celtic fell to their first defeat of the new season in an actioned packed and eventful  home game against Ex Div1 outfit Greenwich Pumas. The two nil loss was perhaps an unfair score line considering the number of chances Madison had in the opening twenty minutes of the half and the tail end of the second half. Carlos, Safet and a few others had unbelievable chances to put the Celts ahead early on but could not make the break through. The Pumas were playing well and passed the ball around with some panache but you could not tell that these teams were playing two divisions apart last season. The Celts had started the game strongly and  looked the more likely side to score as the half wore on until one of their forwards was tripped in the box for a clear penalty. But, for the second week in a row, the opposition could not take advantage from the spot as the Hulk made a superb save to keep the teams tied. However, the penalty miss, rather than galvanize the Celts, seemed to make the Pumas attack with increased urgency and shortly before half time they snatched the lead as one of their forwards cut across the Madison box and shot low across the goal into the net. Hulk was called into action a few more times making great saves to keep the Celts in the game as Greenwich tried to press home their advantage. However, when the half time whistle sounded the Celts were feeling somewhat aggrieved that they were not ahead let alone one nil down.  A tactical switch at the start of the second half saw Carlos moved to the back as sweeper to make sure balls were going to be pumped up to the forward line with more regularity. This switch worked to great effect as the Celts created more and more chances. It looked certain that the home team would equalize until an "event" deprived Madison of Carlos  for the rest of the game. The fact that the Pumas were down to ten players after this didn't seem to help as the Celts were clearly distracted by what had happened to Carlos. Even though several more chances fell to the Celtic forward line the elusive equalizer could not be found. And, almost inevitably, as the Celts pushed further and further forward a loose ball from Jodingo!! was pounced on by the Pumas and they raced into the box to score their second and secure the three points. The game ended under a cloud  in more ways than one as Celtic suffered their first set back in the new league.

Man Of The Match; A few players like JohnB, Kris and Carlos had great games today and the usual hard running of Roniildo and Halil were on display for most of the match. But because of the great penalty save and a few more after that, the MOM goes to Hulk!

Next weeks game is an away game;

29-Apr O40-2 VASCO DA GAMA 40 vs MADISON CELTIC 10:00 AM Veterans Memorial Park, Bridgeport

Game Is On!!

see you guys at Strong field at around 10.30am   Kick off at 11

Friday, April 20, 2012

NEXT GAME; Sunday 22nd April vs Greenwich Pumas

Depending on the weather we will have a game against Greenwich Pumas this Sunday. This is a home game at Strong field with a kick off at 11am. El Gato and i will be tracking the weather forecast and make a call on the game Sunday morning. We will text the team if the game is on or if it is cancelled and I will post on the blog.

So, what do we know about the Pumas? Well not a lot. They finished last in Division 1 last year winning 2 games out of 27. This year they started their campaign in Div 2 with a 1-1 draw against Norwalk Sports Colombia. Norwalk finished third in last years Div 2 campaign. So not a lot of data but we can assume an ex Div 1 team will be a hard game for us!

If the game goes ahead the beer boys are Hulk and Tano

Watch the sky!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MATCH REPORT; Madison 3 Guilford 1

The Celts got off to the best of possible starts to the new season with a well earned victory over their closest geographical rivals, Guilford. A huge squad of twenty two players turned up for the first game of the new season in Division 2 with new players John B, Edison and Edgimar playing big parts in the win.

A gloriously sunny April day was a welcome start for the new soccer year and the three man referee squad was an acute reminder that this was a very different league! The game started with the Celts playing as though they had been practising for weeks prior to kick off. The comfortably recognisable midfield of Carlos, Fribeka, Roniildo and Halil started the game strongly for the Celts. With Jorge and last years top scorer Tano up front ensuring Guilford were on the back foot from the start. Although a few misplaced passes here and there were a sign of pre-season rustiness for the most part Madison were starting the season strongly. Of the new cohort of players Edgimar was the first to shine as he started a master class in defending from the back. Next up to impress was John B with a strong hard running performance from midfield. By the time the game go to the thirty minute mark the Celts were in control of the game even though Guilford looked like the better passing team. Some probing shots by Guilford were mopped up easily by the Madison defense and when the Hulk was called into action he was up for the challenge. The game changed dramatically when new bhoy Edgimar met a fabulous cross to head the ball into the net and put the Celts one nil up. This was a well deserved goal and really was just reward for the dominance the Celts had been showing. Guilford were sparked into action by this set back and nearly got an equalizer but the shot was stopped on the line by the well placed TomP. But the half finished with the Celts on top and raring to go in the second half.
Edison had joined the action just before the half and showed some real drive at the start of the second half as the Celts tried to consolidate their lead. It wasnt long before they did as they won a free kick on the Guilford right side of the field. Edgimar strode up to take the free kick and blasted a scorcher of a shot into the box where Carlos was on hand either smartly dummy or flick the ball into the net. Without replays i think the goal goes to Edgimar but i'm willing to be corrected. Anyway it was now two nil to the Celts and they were strolling to their fist victory in the new Division. Of course, it never goes that smoothly for the Celts and as the half wore on Guilford started to push the Celts further and further back on defence. Even a clownish fifteen minutes by Johanldo making his return from injury after 5 months didn't let Guilford get a goal but you could tell it was coming. With Madison unable to clear their lines effectively Guilford nipped in and scored. Now there was only one goal in it and Guilford were trying hard for the equalizer. Just as it looked like Madison might cough up a point to Guilford the fabulous Carlos went on a great mazey run and scored a great third goal for the Celts. You would think that would be that but Fribeka decided to make things interesting by handling the ball in the box ( again) to give Guilford a penalty. Luckily for the Celts the Guilford forward blasted the ball high over the bar and fairly shortly after the ref called an end to a very competitive match. A great three points to win and great debuts from the new bhoys. The only major cloud in the game was the knee injury top Paulo that may keep him out of the rest of the season

Man Of The Match; Great performances from the new guys and some of our old guys too, including Halil, Carlos, Tom A and Ruggerho but MOM goes for a fantastic performance by Edgimar!

Friday, April 13, 2012

NEXT GAME; Sunday 15th April vs Guilford

Our first game of the new season is against our old rivals Guilford Bell Curve. It is a home game with a 10 am Kick off at Strong field.

As we all know Guilford just pipped us to second place in the league last year and gave us four hard games through the year. We only managed to beat them once, drew another and lost twice. The last defeat being the killer blow to our ambitions of finishing second in the league.

This will be a tough game but possibly our best chance of claiming 3 points against a team we know well. It would be a great way to start of our league campaign in Division 2!

Some people are suggesting having a picnic after the game but it may be to to short notice to organize. We do need beer boys though and I'm not sure if Hulk is still in charge of that? Any volunteers?

Let's try and show up at least 30 minutes before the game. We had a very bad habit of players turning up a few minutes before the game started or worse, after it started!

So see you all at 9.30 am for the 10 am kick off!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Race for the Flag Starts this Weekend!

You cant beat it...that moment at the end of a hard fought season when you realise you are the best, you are the champions. You get to raise the flag, get the medals, bask in the glory. Celtic did just that last Sunday by winning 6-0 to capture the Scottish Premier league. At one point they were 15 points behind their major rivals but clawed their way back to the top of the pile. Well now it's our turn to chase for the flag.....yes, it's finally here...the new season is upon us and our first game in Division 2 of SASL is at home this Sunday, at 10 am vs our old friends and rivals Guilford Bell Curve. It is a great game to start off our new adventure in a tough league and maybe one of the few times we will not be playing an unknown quantity this season. It is a real chance to get off to a winning start!

We have lost Bambi and David for this season and Talat may be an infrequent player this year but we have recruited a few new players with the great effort of Tano. It should be a good squad for the year ahead but we all have to play our part as a primadonas, no histrionics, no childish behaviour. Lets play as friends and as a squad of players that only want two play our best and to have fun! If we gather points on the way....even better!

If you are in for Sunday put your name on the squad list in the comments section below. The fixture list for the new season is in the pages section top right.

Pre-match post will be out on Friday

Monday, April 9, 2012

Barca Rules, Part 3!

The final two Barca secrets are shared!

6. Possession is nine-tenths of the game

Keeping the ball has been Barcelona’s key tactic since Cruijff’s day. Most teams don’t worry about possession. They know you can have oodles of possession and lose. But Barcelona aim to have 65 or 70 per cent of possession in a game. Last season in Spain, they averaged more than 72 per cent; so far this year, they are at about 70 per cent.

The logic of possession is twofold. Firstly, while you have the ball, the other team can’t score. A team like Barcelona, short on good tacklers, needs to defend by keeping possession. As Guardiola has remarked, they are a “horrible” team without the ball.

Secondly, if Barça have the ball, the other team has to chase it, and that is exhausting. When the opponents win it back, they are often so tired that they surrender it again immediately. Possession gets Barcelona into a virtuous cycle.
Barça are so fanatical about possession that a defender like Gerald Pique will weave the most intricate passes inside his own penalty area rather than boot the ball away. In almost all other teams, the keeper at least is free to boot.

In the England side, for instance, it’s typically Joe Hart who gives the ball away with a blind punt. This is a weakness of England’s game, but the English attitude seems to be that there is nothing to be done about it: keepers can’t pass. Barcelona think differently.

Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid’s coach and Barcelona’s nemesis, has tried to exploit their devotion to passing. In the Bernabeu in December, Madrid’s forwards chased down Valdes from the game’s first kickoff, knowing he wouldn’t boot clear. The keeper miscued a pass, and Karim Benzema scored after 23 seconds. Yet Valdes kept passing, and Barcelona won 1-3. The trademark of Barcelona-raised goalkeepers – one shared only by Ajax-raised goalkeepers, like Edwin van der Sar – is that they can all play football like outfield players.

7. The “one-second rule”

No other football team plays the Barcelona way. That’s a strength, but it’s also a weakness. It makes it very hard for Barça to integrate outsiders into the team, because the outsiders struggle to learn the system. Barcelona had a policy of buying only “Top Ten” players – men who arguably rank among the ten best footballers on earth – yet many of them have failed in the Nou Camp.

Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic did, while even David Villa, who knew Barcelona’s game from playing it with Spain, ended up on the bench before breaking his leg.

Joan Oliver, Barcelona’s previous chief executive, explained the risk of transfers by what he called the “one-second rule”. The success of a move on the pitch is decided in less than a second. If a player needs a few extra fractions of a second to work out where his teammate is going, because he doesn’t know the other guy’s game well, the move will usually break down. A new player can therefore lose you a match in under a second.

Pedro isn’t a great footballer, but because he was raised in the Masia he can play Barcelona’s game better than stars from outside. The boys in the Masia spend much of their childhood playing passing games, especially Cruijff’s favorite, six against three. Football, Cruijff once said, is choreography.

Nobody else thinks like that. That’s why most of the Barcelona side is homegrown. It’s more a necessity than a choice. Still, most of the time it works pretty well.

Simple huh?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Barca Rules, Part 2!

Some more helpful hints from the masters of soccer!

3. More rules of pressing

Once Barcelona have built their compact wall, they wait for the right moment to start pressing again. They don’t choose the moment on instinct. Rather, there are very precise prompts that tell them when to press. One is if an opponent controls the ball badly. If the ball bounces off his foot, he will need to look downwards to locate it, and at that moment he loses his overview of the pitch. That’s when the nearest Barcelona players start hounding him.

There’s another set prompt for Barça to press: when the opposing player on the ball turns back towards his own goal. When he does that, he narrows his options: he can no longer pass forward, unless Barcelona give him time to turn around again. Barcelona don’t give him time. Their players instantly hound the man, forcing him to pass back, and so they gain territory.

4. The “3-1 rule”

If an opposing player gets the ball anywhere near Barcelona’s penalty area, then Barça go Italian. They apply what they call the “3-1 rule”: one of Barcelona’s four defenders will advance to tackle the man with the ball, and the other three defenders will assemble in a ring about two or three metres behind the tackler. That provides a double layer of protection. Guardiola picked this rule up in Italy. It’s such a simple yet effective idea that you wonder why all top teams don’t use it.

5. No surprise

When Barcelona win the ball, they do something unusual. Most leading teams treat the moment the ball changes hands – “turnover”, as it’s called in basketball – as decisive. At that moment, the opponents are usually out of position, and so if you can counterattack quickly, you have an excellent chance of scoring.

Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal often try to score in the first three seconds after winning possession. So their player who wins the ball often tries to hit an instant splitting pass. Holland – Barcelona’s historic role models – do this too.

But when a Barcelona player wins the ball, he doesn’t try for a splitting pass. The club’s attitude is: he has won the ball, that’s a wonderful achievement, and he doesn’t need to do anything else special. All he should do is slot the ball simply to the nearest teammate. Barcelona’s logic is that in winning the ball, the guy has typically forfeited his vision of the field. So he is the worst-placed player to hit a telling ball.

This means that Barcelona don’t rely on the element of surprise. They take a few moments to get into formation, and then pretty much tell their opponents, “OK, here we come.” The opposition knows exactly what Barça are going to do. The difficulty is stopping it.

The only exception to this rule is if the Barça player wins the ball near the opposition’s penalty area. Then he goes straight for goal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Barcelona's Secret to Soccer Success! Part 1

Guys our new season is almost upon us and it's going to be a tough one. I just read a great article by Simon Kuper about the secret of Barcelona success. It is a fascinating read and I'm going to share it in a series of blog postings. Now, I'm not saying we are going to be able to play like Barcelona but even following some of the rules that Pep G and his team have perfected could help us!

We all see that Barcelona are brilliant. The only problem is understanding just how they do it. That’s where my friend Albert Capellas comes in. Whenever he and I run into each other somewhere in Europe, we talk about Barça. Not many people know the subject better.

Capellas is now assistant manager at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, but before that he was coordinator of Barcelona’s great youth academy, the Masia. He helped bring a boy named Sergio Busquets from a rough local neighbourhood to Barça. He trained Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes in their youth teams. In all, Capellas worked nine years for his hometown club.

During our last conversation, over espressos in an Arnhem hotel, I had several “Aha” moments. I have watched Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona umpteen times, but only now am I finally beginningto see. Guardiola’s Barcelona are great not merely because they have great players. They also have great tactics – different not just from any other team today, but also different from Barcelona teams pre-Guardiola. Barça are now so drilled on the field that in some ways they are more like an American gridiron football team than a soccer one.

Before getting into the detail of their game, it’s crucial to understand just how much of it comes from Guardiola. When a Barcelona vice president mused to me four years ago that she’d like to see the then 37-year-old Pep be made head coach, I never imagined it would happen. Guardiola was practically a novice. The only side he had ever coached was Barça’s second team.

However, people in the club who had worked with him – men like the club’s then president Joan Laporta, and the then director of football Txiki Beguiristain – had already clocked him as special. Not only did Guardiola know Barcelona’s house style inside out. He also knew how it could be improved.

Guardiola once compared Barcelona’s style to a cathedral. Johan Cruijff, he said, as Barça’s supreme player in the 1970s and later as coach, had built the cathedral. The task of those who came afterwards was to renovate and update it. Guardiola is always looking for updates. If a random person in the street says something interesting about the game, Guardiola listens.

He thinks about football all the time. He took ideas from another Dutch Barcelona manager, Louis van Gaal, but also from his years playing for Brescia and Roma in Italy, the home of defence. Yet because Guardiola has little desire to explain his ideas to the media, you end up watching Barça without a codebook.

Cruijff was perhaps the most original thinker in football’s history, but most of his thinking was about attack. He liked to say that he didn’t mind conceding three goals, as long as Barça scored five. Well, Guardiola also wanted to score five, but he minded conceding even one. If Barcelona is a cathedral, Guardiola has added the buttresses. In Barça’s first 28 league games this season, they have let in only 22 goals. Here are some of “Pep”’s innovations, or the secrets of FC Barcelona:

1. Pressure on the ball

Before Barcelona played Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley last May, Alex Ferguson said that the way Barça pressured their opponents to win the ball back was “breathtaking”. That, he said, was Guardiola’s innovation. Ferguson admitted that United hadn’t known how to cope with it in the Champions League final in Rome in 2009. He thought it would be different at Wembley. It wasn’t.

Barcelona start pressing (hunting for the ball) the instant they lose possession. That is the perfect time to press because the opposing player who has just won the ball is vulnerable. He has had to take his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception, and he has expended energy. That means he is unsighted, and probably tired. He usually needs two or three seconds to regain his vision of the field. So Barcelona try to dispossess him before he can give the ball to a better-placed team mate.

Furthermore, if the guy won the ball back in his own defence, and Barcelona can instantly win it back again, then the way to goal is often clear. This is where Lionel Messi’s genius for tackling comes in. The little man has such quick reflexes that he sometimes wins a tackle a split-second after losing one.

The Barcelona player who lost the ball leads the hunt to regain it. But he never hunts alone. His teammates near the ball join him. If only one or two Barça players are pressing, it’s too easy for the opponent to pass around them.

2. The “five-second rule”
If Barça haven’t won the ball back within five seconds of losing it, they then retreat and build a compact ten-man wall. The distance between the front man in the wall (typically Messi) and their last defender (say, Carles Puyol) is only 25 to 30 metres. It’s hard for any opponent to pass their way through such a small space.

The Rome final was a perfect demonstration of Barcelona’s wall: whenever United won the ball and kept it, they faced eleven precisely positioned opponents, who stood there and said, in effect: “Try and get through this.”
It’s easy for Barcelona to be compact, both when pressing and when drawing up their wall, because their players spend most of the game very near each other. Xavi and Iniesta in particular seldom stray far from the ball.

Cruijff recently told the former England manager Steve McClaren, now with FC Twente in Holland: “Do you know how Barcelona win the ball back so quickly? It’s because they don’t have to run back more than 10 metres as they never pass the ball more than 10 metres.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Warm Up Game; A good start!

Sounds like the game against the Madison over 30 team was a great work out for the team and some of the new players. By all accounts the final score of 4-2 to them was fair but the Celts played well and started to get some of the pre-season cobwebs blown away. Some new players made their first appearances and that can only help with our challenge in Division 2.

Just a reminder, again, if you have not paid your $90 season fee you CANNOT play for the team. Please make sure you send in your fee as soon as possible. We now have only 1 player who has not signed their waiver and is in danger of not playing at all.

David Slade has also decided to leave the team and join Div 1 outfit Southeast Xara. Best of luck and keep in touch!