Blazers falter on defense, lose 2-0

Oct. 6, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 14 years, 11 months ago

Watkins Mill takes advantage of Blair errors in disheartening defeat


The Blazers seemed ready for anything at the beginning of tonight's game against the Watkins Mill Wolverines. After Blair's warm up the players were excited and ready to play, two things not commonly associated with the varsity boys' soccer team in the first half. Their eagerness was shown throughout the game as Blair played their best game of the year against an undefeated and extremely talented Watkins Mill team. Blair played cohesively and passed well for the most of the game, but a lack of teamwork when inside the Watkins Mill's goalie box and two defensive misplays let the Wolverines leave with a 2-0 victory. The loss dropped Blair's record to 4-3 for the season.

Coach Adrian Baez ended the night in the huddle saying, "This game was well played," an accurate statement when looking at the game in its entirety, but unfortunately it was momentary collapses which doomed the Blazers from the games onset. For the majority of the game, Blair played as well or better than what Baez called a "very quick and talented" Watkins Mill team. Still after 80 minutes there was a clear difference between the play and the results of the two teams tonight. While Watkins Mill was able to take advantage of their offensive opportunities, Blair was not, often fumbling when inside the box, rarely taking shots when they were available and eventually paying dearly with a disheartening loss.

When the game started it seemed that Blair came ready to play. Many players showed a level of intensity absent in earlier first halves. Previously the team would not take their opponent seriously and it showed in their sloppy play. Tonight Blair knew from the very beginning that Watkins Mill was a solid team with several dominant players and that sluggish play would have negative consequences. Unfortunately, the increased effort had little effect as Blair ended the half down 0-1. Blair however was still within striking distance and seemed poised to stay close for the rest of the match.

Watkins Mill's goal in the 13th minute highlighted the problems that Blair faced on defense tonight. After an accurate cross from the left side of the field, a Watkins Mill attacker was able to control the ball quickly, break free of a defender and shoot the ball back towards the left side of the goal, catching senior co-captain goalie Adam Macleod off guard. Macleod attempted to save the shot, but was simply out of reach.

While Watkins Mill's offense was by no means dominant, they were able to convert when they had the chance, something Blair did not do during tonight's game. For almost the entire 80 minutes Blair was unable to advance the ball up the field effectively in the middle of the field. Senior co-captain Mac Kpadeh said after the game "there is a lot of distance between the defense and offense," referencing the general ineffectiveness of the Blair midfield in giving Blair's forwards the opportunities necessary to score.

Most of the difficulties in advancing the ball were due to a stellar Watkins Mill defense, which was able to cover or catch up to every Blair forward. Often Blair has relied on a few breakaways for their only scores in a game, but because of the speed of the Wolverine defense, Blair's forwards were pushed to edges of the field where plays are almost impossible. The most notable players that were effected by the defense were senior Bereket Abebe and junior Josh Zipin, two stellar players who never able to show their potential tonight because they were marked so well.

Coach Baez maintained that better placed passes will help Blair to become more potent on offense in future games. "We still need better passing, we especially have to have more accurate passing up front" he reiterated. The lack of passing forced several players to create plays often on their own, with little effect. Sometimes the Blair forward would get stuck near the corner with no open cross, or in other instances a forward would drive up the middle to find that there was simply no one to pass to. Both of these scenarios highlighted a lack of communication among the Blair offense as single players tried to do the work of an entire team. "We need to crowd the box and take advantage of our chances," continued Baez hoping that increased offensive teamwork would lead to more scoring chances.

Even with some offensive woes, the most visible and poignant Blair errors were made on their own side of the pitch. Kpadeh said after the game, "Our biggest problem was marking up on defense." The sheer speed of the Watkins Mill attack made it difficult for the Blazers to stay close to their assigned man.

Often Blair defenders lost their balance due to excellent moves by the Wolverines, and were unable to recoup quickly enough. This led to "their forwards being one on one with our goalie and we just cannot let that happen," said coach Baez. In the 45th minute this problem was exemplified as a Watkins Mill forward moved around his Blair defender and was lucky enough to find Macleod out of position. As the Watkins Mill player shot a hard ball on the ground, Macleod attempted a dive, but because he was so far away, he did not get onto the ground in time and the ball hit the back of the net.

The Blazers were able to stay competitive for the rest of the game, but similar errors on offense continued and Blair was unable to make a comeback. Most of the team was demoralized after such a close game, but Kpadeh was able to find some positives in the Blair effort tonight. "We played hard early, something we didn't do before." However it was evident in Kpadeh's tone that playing hard sometimes is simply not enough. Results are all that determine the final score. While Blair remained close for so long, simple errors by talented members of the team doomed them from the very start.

Blair's next game is away against Damascus this Friday at 7:00 p.m.

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