The good news…preseason is now over and we can finally play some games that mean something toward securing the USSF Division II Championship.
The bad news…AC St. Louis lost their final preseason match to the Kansas City Wizards by a score of 2-1 at their first game at Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in front of a nice crowd of nearly 3,000 supporters.
Even though Kansas City won the game, and the number of shots taken by both teams were completely lopsided (Kansas City doubled AC’s output in total shots and shots on target), AC looked good controlling the ball in the midfield, while also having a strong game on their back line.
Still, even with a decent performance against a team that is an established MLS franchise, Kansas City was able to score the first goal of the match. In the 31st minute, Wizards forward Zoltan Hercegfalvi pounced on a botched back pass by AC keeper Alec Duffy. While Duffy tried to cut down the angle, Zoltan was able to chip the ball into an empty net and give the Wizards the lead.
The score would remain 1-0 going into the second half. But in the 53rd minute, Wizard’s keeper Jimmy Nelson collided with an attacking St. Louis player, which resulted in a penalty kick for AC. Bosnian Elvir Kafedzic lined up and scored the PK putting the game on even footing at 1-1.
But luck would soon change for AC. In the 84th minute, a bit of sloppy defensive play by AC off a free kick saw Kansas City score their second goal. Wizard’s Craig Rocastle cross found Santiago Hirzig, who beat Duffy on the near post to score what would prove to be the game winner for Kansas City.
In the dying minutes of the match, AC tried to find the equalizer, but the Kansas City defense were able to hold AC’s last minute attacks to keep the game at 2-1
Even though the game was 2-1 and the shot amount was disproportionate in favor of Kansas City, we did learn a little more about our St. Louis team tonight.
First, we learned that St. Louis have a well organized defense. Even without Steve Ralston and Jack Traynor in the lineup, AC was able to hold their own and do a fine job. While the Wizards might have had eight shots on target, most of them were not quality chances. In addition, Alec Duffy made a number of fine saves on the evening. This team looks as if their back line is going to be solid.
Second, we need to add more pressure up front. Yesterday we saw a style of play that I don’t think really fits St. Louis. Instead of the short passing, and playing more of a South American style of play that, honestly, I think fits a slower team, St. Louis looked to play a little more long ball during this match. It might not have been the English-style of long ball that we are used to when we watch an EPL match, but a more direct type of long ball passing that just didn’t work. The problem in this match was that the Kansas City defenders were quite a bit faster than the attacking AC players and thus were able to pounce on any long balls that AC was throwing into the attacking zone. And with their play at midfield looking impressive, they should have continued to try short passes to force their way into the attacking zone instead of going for the long ball. Still, maybe AC was trying something new. If so, I didn’t think it worked.
Third, I think coach Claude Anelka should go with what he knows. Now, as many of you might know, I am an avid follower of French football. And, as I am sure all of you know, Anelka is French (and if you don’t, honestly, I am speechless). Therefore, instead of sticking with a traditional type of ‘American style’ of lineup (basically some formation of the 4-4-2), Anelka should switch up the style that he might feel more comfortable with and have the players adapt to that style of play. Now, I could be totally wrong, and Anelka might like to play the 4-4-2. But in France, the 4-3-3, with a mixture of play both up the center and the wings, is the traditional style. And with the strong defensive play of this AC St. Louis team, Anelka could pull off a 4-3-3 style of play for this team.
A few weeks ago, I saw FC Tampa Bay Rowdies play against UCF. During that match, I could tell that players were playing adapting to Paul Dalglish’s style of play. Tampa looked like a very traditional British (since he is Scottish, I won’t say English) style of football, with long balls from the midfield feeding the wingers, which in turn, crossed the ball into the box for a scoring chance. Dalglish has played this style of football all of his life and, therefore, is very comfortable teaching that method.
I think Coach Anelka needs to do the same thing. Don’t conform to what is traditional in the US. Go with what style of soccer that you want to see on your team and conform the players to play that style of soccer. Again, I also can be totally off-base and Anelka is happy with some sort of 4-4-2. But still, try out the 4-3-3, because St. Louis is a team that can make that work.
But, overall, it was promising for a team that has just been assembled. We are going through the growing pains and will eventually be able to make it so that we can have a structured style of play. The midfield looked organized and the defense was good, especially of the left and right backs of Anthony O’Garro (who looks like a typical French left back, playing defense while pushing forward, I was impressed) and Zack Bauer. The attack can be worked on a little, but we are expecting some players to heal up and return from overseas obligations (like the Brazilian players). Still, they looked decent.
But, honestly, after seeing them play, Tampa Bay is miles ahead.
KC 31st minute Zoltan -unassisted
AC 53rd minute Kafedzic – penalty kick
KC 84th minute Hirzig 0 assisted by Rocastle (from free kick)
AC-STL: Dufty; Bauer, Velten, Lesko (Barna 86), O’Garro; Kante, Bloom, Cole (Moore 45), Kreamamlmeyer; Kafedzic (Cosgriff 70), Ambersley (Pogesyan 72)
KC: Nielsen; Espinoza, Besler, Conrad (Escobar 62), Harrington; Bunbury, Rocastle, Hirzig, Jewsbury (Zusi 63), Kamara; Zoltan (Aiyegbusi 57)
AC 45th minute Ryan Moore for Troy Cole
KC 57th minute Aiyegbusi for Zoltan
KC 62nd minute Escobar for Conrad
KC 63rd minute Zusi for Jewsbury
AC 70th minute Jeff Cosgriff for Elvir Kafedzic
AC 72nd minute Gilbert Pogesyan for Mike Ambersley
AC 86th minute Dillon Barna for John Lesko
KC 34th minute Yellowcard – Matt Besler – (Reckless Foul)
Total Shots: 2 16
Shots on Goal: 1 8
Saves: 6 –
Fouls: 6 4
Corners: 2 –
Offsides: 6 1
Referee: Landis Wiley
Referee’s Assistants: Justin Mack, Kevin Mesman
4th official: Mark Boyco
time of game: 1:56
weather: 60, fair, partly-cloudy, cool.