I spent the majority of the past week in Germany on a business trip. This is not the first time I've made this trip, and it generally involves a massive amount of work, good beer, and lots of food. I would prefer to stay home and play with my kids, but if I have to go, I may as well make it a productive trip.
And productive it was. We were able to accomplish all of our objectives and get in a little authentic German grub and brew. Part of the reason for the success of the trip is that we had the chance to block out all other distractions and focus on this one thing. It's amazing how a little bit of discipline can turn difficult goals into realities.
So, as I sat on one of my many return flights, which felt like they took 87 hours and covered roughly a billion miles (though spending the previous night out at a Thai karaoke bar may have influenced that perception), I pondered whether Orlando City B might have a similar experience. Perhaps getting away from Florida and going out on the road might help the players clear their heads and finally start putting together a strong performance.
Or perhaps not.
It may have been the jet lag, the fact that I spent the day doing some construction around the house, or the fact that I had dinner at my parents' house on Saturday, where my mom made an amazing beef tenderloin and my dad busted out 27 bottles of wine (all figures approximate), but I have to admit that I was initially confused during the first few minutes of the game when the purple team was sluggish and the white team was making clean, crisp passes (for the record, I had the volume off, so the kids could properly focus on Paw Patrol). My initial reaction was, "Here we go again," and I was bummed to see the white team with a cheeky play for the initial goal.
But then, wait, that was Richie Laryea with that slick back heel, and Michael Cox with the sweet finish. Oh, crap...away kits!
OCB's performance during the first 10 minutes or so of the game serve to provide hope that this team may yet come together. We sometimes have to remind ourselves that this is a young team, composed mostly of players in their early 20s or late teens. Their on-field performance right now reminds me of a bunch of cars in a turn lane. The turn signals never quite line up, but every once in a while they click in unison, and it's a beautiful thing.
The opening goal was one of those moments. It started with strong pressure by Zach Ellis-Hayden, who stole the ball, dribbled down the right flank, and passed it back to Laryea, who then flicked it to Cox. It was a beautiful goal and provides a view of what these players are capable of.
You can't simply gloss over the fact that the team lost 4-1. This team has a long way to go, and it would be nice to see a victory before players and fans start to get too frustrated. Yet, just as the primary focus of this team is the development of players, a side effect of that development will be us, as fans, learning how to apply a bit of patience.
My favorite moment of this past weekend's game, aside from the goal of course, took place in the 23rd minute, when OCB tried to pull off what I called (to nobody in particular) the soccer version of the hidden ball trick. Note: I grew up as a "baseball-first" guy, so I tend to bring most of my soccer, and even life, analogies back to baseball.
The play started innocently enough, when Ellis-Hayden stepped up to take a corner kick. He started making his way back to the field as if to change places with Laryea. Before Ellis-Hayden made his way back on to the field, he tapped the ball, thus putting it in play. Laryea strolled over to "take the corner," but instead started dribbling towards goal. It took a while before the Louisville players realized what was going on. Laryea cut the ball back inside, but the pass didn't connect.
Overall, it looks like OCB has worked on its set pieces, which is good, as it was a point of weakness in the first two games. I'll list this as another sliver of hope in what has been an otherwise disappointing start to the season.
Checking the Table
OCB currently sits in 11th place in the 14-team Eastern Conference, with just one stinking point. The three teams below them are Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Harrisburg City. None of these teams have earned a point yet, but neither have they played three games like OCB has.
Next Week's Opponent
Speaking of Harrisburg City, they're the next opponent for OCB, and with any luck, the first victim. They have played two games and lost both. The first was a 3-1 loss to the Richmond Kickers, and the second a 2-1 loss to the Charlotte Independence. Both games have been away. The porosity of their defense may give a bit of hope to OCB's anemic offense. It's the resistible force against the movable object!
While OCB is still looking for its first win, I actually feel that despite the score, this was a better performance than last week's 0-0 draw to Charleston. I'm not going to sugar coat it -- the central defense was way too porous, the attack struggled to maintain any sustained pressure, and the midfielders were slow to react to Louisville's pressure. Still, and this may be more of an indictment on the Charleston game than it is praise to the Louisville game, the team looked like it was slowly getting more accustomed to playing with each other.
Maybe that's false hope on my part, but again, if I were to identify a theme for this past week, and for the season as a whole, it would have to be patience.
Perhaps it would be best to pull a quote from Charlie Papazian, the father of American home brewing: "Relax, don't worry, and have a home brew."