Sunday, May 23, 2010

Flames Win Bronze, Remain Undefeated, End Season with the Heat Turned All the Way to 11

"Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory." ~ Sun Tzu

The Grandview Flames entered Darree Fields with high hopes Saturday riding a two-season unbeaten streak into the Ohio Champions League U10 Boys Spring 2010 Tournament.

They left Darree Fields Saturday evening still undefeated but nearly depleted, and with their tournament hopes hanging by a thread. 

But, the next morning, on a wet and scorching hot Darree Fields, the unstoppable Flames turned up the gas and burned through both their opponents to come from behind and secure the Bronze Third Place Finish in the 12-team field, remain undefeated in 2010 and keep their club-record 22-game undefeated streak alive.

Highlights of the four-game stand include: A beautiful header goal by Wes to win Game 3 on the corner kick from Manny. A hat trick by Ben K in game 4. The Flames first clean sheet of the season by Jake and Wes in Game 4. Jake played in goal for all but part of one half when Wes came in to close Game 4 and kept the clean sheet. Coach Gerdes was doused in the ceremonial cooler dump. Ben D. turned 10 to singing and cupcakes. Ben K. walked away with the Golden boot with a total of 13 goals on the season with Wes not far behind with 10.   

When all was said and done, the Flames did Grandview proud. "Flame On!"

Day One, Saturday, May 22
Game One: 12:55 p.m. Versus Dublin United Schalke FC. Tie 2-2.
68 degrees with steady light breeze from the west, slightly damp field with medium high grass for a slightly slow pitch. Flames Formation: 1-1-3. Schalke Formation: 2-3. Manny scores in minute 7 and minute 16. Schalke score in minute 17 to make it 2-1 to close the half. Schalke open Second Half with goal in minute 7 (tied 2-2). With 15 minutes remaining, Manny drills free kick in from 20-yards, but goal called back because it was an indirect kick. The referee later explained that the call was dangerous play. Ben D was kicked in face on a high kick in the Flames' box. Schalke tie it 2-2 with 5 minutes remaining. Shots on Goal: Schalke 7, Flames 10. Saves: Schalke 6, Flames 5 (Jake). Overall the Flames looked tentative and often indecisive, particularly on defense. 50-50 balls too often went to Schalke.   

Game Two: 3:20 p.m. Versus Dublin Shamrock Rovers. Tie 4-4. 70 degrees and cloudy with spots of rain and slight west breeze. Field was a little drier and quicker. Flames took the 3-0 lead into halftime but then crumbled defensively against a Shamrocks team that just plain wanted it more and came locked and loaded. It would have been a loss were it not for Jake's outstanding performance in goal with 10 saves, including several spectacular game-savers near the buzzer. Wes scored first in minute 10 followed by Dylan in Minute 15 on a deflected shot by Manny. Near the close of the First Half, Sam scored on a shot off one that Derek sent off the post to make it 3-0 at halftime. Immediately to open the second half, the Shamrocks passed it right through the Flames to score and make it 3-1. Two minutes later, they did it again to make it 3-2, and you could see the Flames dim a bit. The Shamrocks assaulted the Flames' goal with several shots and three corner kicks. But the Flames did not give up, and Wes scored to make it 4-2 Flames with about 8 minutes remaining. In hindsight, perhaps a more defensive formation at this point might have made sense. The Shamrocks had five consecutive unanswered shots on goal before finally netting one with 6 minutes left followed by the heartbreaking tying goal with two minutes left. Shots on Goal: Shamrocks 14, Flames 10. Saves: Shamrocks 4, Flames 6.

Day 2, Sunday, May 23
Game 3: 8:30 a.m. Versus Bexley Premier. Win 4-3. Sunny and humid 70 degrees for dawn kickoff on a very wet, dew-soaked slow pitch.This ended up being an instant classic. The Flames looked sharp but struggled with the extremely slow pitch. Bexley scored first about 5 minutes in on a cross that was initially saved but not secured, and Bexley punched it in on the deflection. But one minute later the Flames came back with a goal by Ben K, 1-1 tie. Bexley broke away a couple minutes later to answer with another goal and retake the lead, 2-1. The Flames did well controlling play the remainder of the first half and fought back with several good chances, but they did not convert, and it ended up 2-1 at half. Two minutes into the second half, Ben D. tied it up with a clinical finish that breathed new life into the Flames. But one minute later, Bexley went ahead 3-2. This is where the Flames showed their character. Manny dribbled all the way and planted it into the net with 19  minutes remaining, 3-3. Several harrowing minutes went by with quality chances and clutch defense on both sides before what was one of the most remarkable plays of the season and perhaps Flames history. Many took a corner from the right side that he gave good air and placed right in the goal mouth. Wes ran right into it and headed it home the game winner. Quality defense and clock management protected the lead. Overall this was a much better game from the Flames who showed spirit and intelligence. Shots on Goal: Bexley 13, Flames 18. Saves: Bexley 9, Flames 6.

Game 4: 10:15 a.m. versus Dublin United Schalke FC. Win 4-0. Hot and humid, sunny and 82 degrees at kickoff on a drier and faster pitch. The Flames essentially put on a clinic here in this rematch, demonstrating that Saturday's tie with Schalke was not a true indicator of the relative quality of these respective teams. The Flames showed who they really are and demonstrated why they had the best record in the league in regular season play. It was their first shutout of the campaign and concluded the season on a beautiful note with the Little Red Men playing some of their best soccer in their signature, passing-style, and keeping their 22-game unbeaten streak alive heading into the summer break. Ben K scored on a break away in minute 10, which proved the only goal of the first half despite quality chances on both sides. The Flames dominated possession and made smart choices especially on the defensive end. Five minutes into the second half, Ben K. scored again on a scrappy toe lunge that just trickled in on the cross from Derek, 0-2 Flames. With 16 minutes remaining, Ben D. made it 3-0 with a well placed shot near the far post off his left foot. And Ben K. drove in the hat trick with about 9 minutes left, 4-0 Flames. Wes was subbed in at goal with about 10 minutes remaining. Dylan showed courage by attempting to play through his neck injury at about minute 10 of half one, but it didn't work out for him, unfortunately. Shots on Goal: Schalke 5, Flames 18. Saves: Schalke 11, Flames 5.          

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