The first major tournament each year is the annual Tri-cities tournament. With a young and eager team, we travelled to the American School of Guangzhou (AISG) with the priority of putting into action the foundation of passing, movement and possession we have been working hard on in training.
After a very early start and uneventful trip to Guangzhou we arrived for our first fixture against the AISG hosts. In the considerably warmer weather the boys started well, finding their touch on a new field and creating many scoring opportunities. It was rare for us to be put under pressure and when an attack came through the defensive line led by Cam Grigg and Eerik Harju stepped up to meet every challenge. We opened the game with a goal from Cam Grigg who followed through on a cross, forcing the keeper into an error that finished with the ball in the net. AISG scored an unfortunate own goal shortly afterwards, however, the buildup play and possession that led to the mistake from them was encouraging. The final goal came from the Captain Sandy Olsen. With the first game under our belt and a solid 3-0 win our boys began the recovery necessary for the harder test to come against Shanghai American School Pudong (SAS PD).
The second game saw us face a very tired SAS PD, who were put in the unfortunate position of having to play back-to-back matches on less than 20 minutes rest. Our boys set to work early, moving the ball quickly and forcing SAS PD to chase and wear down already tired legs. An early goal from one of our freshman strikers, Kai O'Shea, gave us the breathing room and oppourntity to settle into our possession game. A poorly timed tackle in the 2nd half gave us an opportunity for a penalty kick and Sandy Olsen made no mistake, stepping up and scoring our second of the match. In the final minutes of the match one of our big men in the back line, William Thoren, found himself in the box and made no mistake with his finish. Another 3-0 win guaranteed us a place in the finals on Saturday and a chance to reinforce and practice our systems and patterns against the final team, a local Chinese high school.
The first game on Saturday showed what our boys are capable of. From the first minute it was clear we would be the dominant team, forcing the opposition to play a style of game they were not comfortable with. This early possession played major part in two early goals, with Sweder Jacobs opening for us and another freshman, Oli Hutchinson, getting his first of the season. We continued through the game dominating possession and creating multiple opportunities for scoring chances, with exciting play leading to chances for Amory Gamet and Taisei Yokoshima who just missed their shots. The final goal game with 5 minutes left. Oli Hutchinson, following our game plan of pressuring the keeper with shots, let loose with what can only be described as a slow dribbler that found its way through the keeper's legs after an unexpected bounce. Finishing this game, the boys were confident for the final that was set to come against SAS PD later that afternoon.
We knew that during the finals against SAS PD they would come out with an adjusted game plan, focused on disrupting our passing and putting high pressure on our defensive line. Our boys did an admirable job maintaining their focus on possession, minimizing mistakes and panic and keeping to our game plan. SAS PD threw a very aggressive formation at us but could not sustain the pace necessary to disrupt the passing patterns that are quickly becoming engrained in everyone's play. After 15 minutes we were able to settle the game into our tempo and create multiple opportunities. The first goal game from another penalty, but this time the keeper making an excellent save on the initial shot but giving up a rebound that Sandy Olsen did not hesitate to put in the back of the net. Shortly after that our new Norwegian addition to WAB, Torkel Saeverud, let loose a cannon of a shot from 25 yards the keeper simply could not hold onto and put us up 2-0. The 3rd goal came late in the first half from Kai O'Shea, after moving past the first defender and stumbling in the shot, manage to regain possession, move past a second defender and put away a rocket of a finish. Moving into the 2nd half SAS PD could not answer our level of pace and fitness and began to take a much more physical approach to the game, giving us several free kick opportunities in dangerous positions. It is a credit to the boys that in the face of both aggressive defending and very passive officiating they managed to remain composed, focused on the game and keep playing our style. The highlight of this was the final goal with about 10 minutes left that saw a long spell of possession work us across the field, move the team forward as a unit and finish with a break down the wing and a perfectly placed cross to a perfectly timed run, giving Tim Tegner his second goal of the season.
It is extremely encouraging to see many of the pieces of our style of play come together. The focus on passing and a renewed focus on attacking creativity and clinical finishing helped put us in a strong position for the rest of the season. The overall results of the tournament was 4 wins, 0 losses, 13 goals for and 0 goals against. This final stat is as important as the goals scored. To accomplish this the entire defensive line of Cam Grigg, Eerik Harju, Noah Christensen, Rodin van Hemert, Amory Gamet and William Thoren, anchored by Isaac Christensen in goal set a standard none of the opposition could meet.
With this first competition behind us the boys are now looking forward to APAC and the work necessary to be successful there.