For a multitude of reasons and even more bullshit, the soccer summer of 2014 will not be well remembered, but it is heartening to have found some measure of redemption in the familiar confines of 3 v 3. As recently as the Spring of 2013, the five man core of Mikey Lynch, Eric Brody, Braden Kemp, Bryson Pink and Randall Congreaves played together at FC America, but When they won Nationals a year ago, the dynamics of the splintering were already underway, and the weekend had the inescapable feel of a farewell. The boys now play on five different teams in two countries, and only two of them even attend the same school.
The friendship of the core and their respective parents exercised a gravitational pull that brought the Sharks together again for another run at 3 v 3 glory. Until Wednesday night, there was considerable uncertainty over whether all the boys would be available and committed to the cause, but on Thursday at 10am they all took the field at Hunter’s Creek for the first of two training sessions. As parents, we all had things to do that day other than stand talking in the sweltering heat, but for a good long while nobody left. We talked and watched the boys play. Over the last 12 months, they had played against each other and/or barely seen each other, but now they smiled, joked and test each other on the field. The parents gradually left, and the boys trained, nearly got kicked out of Gatorland and most certainly got kicked out of Sports Authority, trained again and slept over at the Brody’s house.
The tournament started at 8:30 Friday morning, rather poorly as we conceded a 2-0 lead to SC United, the team we beat in the final last year. Slowly, we came back into the game, and took our first lead at 3-2 when Bryson scored a scrappy goal. We won 6-4, and in our second group game, drew a cupcake and put a 12-1 beating on them, but a few things were apparent; Mikey and Eric were nursing injuries, and Randall was out of shape.
On Saturday Morning, we played a solid team from South Carolina, but Eric made them pay for there flat and wide defensive set up with 4 goals from the point as we lead 4-0 in the first half. We played some really good soccer winning 6-2. Our second game of the day against the Poison Iguanas was our most competitive. The scored remained tied 2-2 into the second half, before Bryson scored a hat trick to give us the 5-2 win. We won our group, and drew an easy quarterfinal match up against the Hi-Lighters, who were dispatched with a 10-0 ass kicking. Going into Sunday’s final four, Randall had gained momentum, and Eric and Mikey were playing successfully through their injuries.
The semifinal was a rematch against the Poison Iguanas, but our tight group game was valuable in establishing a game plan to negate the effectiveness of their mentally unstable star and exploit the limitations of their role players. We scored early through Eric and Bryson added a critical second goal before the half. In the second half, Mikey and Braden scored, but this was if nothing a defensive master class. The Poison Iguanas created almost nothing of consequence in losing 4-0, and grew visibly frustrated as the game wore on.
The final will go down as an utterly boring game. We won 2-0. The Hat Trick Heroes chose to engage us in a methodical high possession, low mistake game, and had no plan B available when we took the lead. Again, though our defensive solidity was astounding, and while our attack was lacking in creativity, we did not lose the ball in any vulnerable situations.
We outscored our opponents 45-9, and did not allow a goal in the knock out stage of the competition, which by the standards of 3 v 3 is an incredible accomplishment. The Sharks have now won 29 competitive matches in a row during a stretch that covers five total tournaments including Worlds in 2013 and three straight Nationals 2012-2014. In this tournament, the team achieved unique balance among the core five players that it literally did not matter which combination of players was on the field at a given time the standard of play and results were a constant.
We move again into a period of uncertainty as to the future of the group, but as always we do so as small family.