- Jordan Spratt
- Rafters FC's Kyle Symczak
Saturday’s game can be looked at from two different perspectives for the Shreveport Rafters: an uncharacteristic performance on their heels or a team even when not at their best still holding the ability to get a decent result against a quality team. While the first option is not false, the latter approach would be the most logical to anyone who has paid close attention to the Rafters.
The last home line up remained unchanged with the exception of Abdullah Rayyan partnering with Gary McCormick at center half as Sean French recovers from illness. As a wise philosopher once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as the team lined up in the familiar 4-1-3-2.
Both teams were insistent on playing their game from the start and so was the referee as there were a number of fouls called in the first 8 minutes that hindered a natural ebb and flow to the game. However, the Rafters seem to thrive whether in the run of play but especially when you give them set pieces to feast on. The team has been nothing short of exquisite on set pieces all season.
In the 8th minute, Rayyan took a free kick, given 50 yards from goal. Rayyan hit the ball in a dangerous position as men in blue and gold were lined up to the left post. The first touch of the ball was the head of forward Steven Bush. Bush realizing his position wasn’t ideal for a shot on goal, headed the ball back to the top of the 18-yard box. The ball went untouched until defensive mid Mark Hammond took a first touch vicious shot that went on a rope from his foot into the lower left 90; no swerve, just knuckle. It was a strike of pure quality that put the Rafters up early, 1-0.
This is the first time the Rafters have played someone with a similar philosophy when it comes to formation. The Warriors played with 5 midfielders as a means to control the middle of the pitch. Early on, one of the Warrior’s defensive midfielders, Bryce Kingsley was constantly under pressure by Bush, Childers, Symczak, and sometimes Barcelona as they attempted to distort the link up with the forwards.
This pressure in the middle forced the ball out wide for the Warriors, an area the Rafters are more than capable of handling. As if he hadn’t already with the free kick that led to the goal, Rayyan was proving the depth of the Rafters as he was more than adequate in French’s absence clearing out balls of all types and stifling attacks with McCormick. The Warriors attempted to get service from the wing players and seemed to want an answer quick after the Rafters goal.
I’m inclined to believe the rumors that goal keeper Lance Quini does in fact fight crime at night in a red and blue spandex suit. There can be no other explanation to his outstanding performance between the sticks.
In the 29th minute the Warriors were on a 3v3 break and the winger to the right played a pass seemingly to the point man, but the forward cleverly let the ball leave on to the incoming left run. It was at that moment that Quini first came up big and 13 yards off his line, was able to meet the shot head-on to block what would have been an easy goal, keeping the score 1-0 Rafters.
“My job is simple, just keeping the ball out of the net by any means possible. Luckily I was on my game tonight and I’m just glad I could help out the team in any way possible,” said Lance Quini
“We have the best keeper in the conference, he pulls off a world class save in a 1v1- you just can’t beat him,” said Coach Greg Palmer.
Steven Bush did an excellent job of playing his high forward position as he was able to keep one eye on the line of the defense and another on the incoming pass. Three opportunities were made just from this discipline. On one occasion Bush was just on sides enough to receive a through ball from Childers and was just stopped short of a goal as he was met by the keeper and the already beat defender, spilling the ball out for a corner. Rafters fans have grown accustomed to getting on their feet as Bush is apt to create at least one footrace stretching the defense.
The stop and start pace of the game mired the open play as each team did a good job of stopping counters and chances created without much possession. The half ended with the Rafters on top 1-0.
Within the first few minutes of the second half it was clear that the Warriors wanted to get men forward. In the 48th minute the Warriors knocked the ball about, about 40 yards away from goal and midfielder of the Warriors, Cameron Brown, did a good job to free himself for a cross from the center of the field. The cross found a man far post as he was able to chest the ball down to forward Idrissa Carma. Carma took one touch and was able to tie the game up with a right footed shot. 1-1. The goal was rather incongruous as the Rafters have always shown strength and synchronization in the air.
Credit is due to the Warriors’ game plan when they had possession as they had men checking to the two defensive midfielders who saw much of the ball. This caused the Rafters to come out and defend higher creating space in-behind.
The Rafters sustained the siege on goal by the Warriors as Quini and the defense were as one in keeping the game tied. In the 58th and 62nd minute Coach Greg sought to inject life into the squad as he brought on four substitutes: Dan Delarae, Boneco Brazil, Luiz Petribu, and Russell Alvarez.
Right after the substitution you were able to see the positive result each player brought on.
Brazil took a deft touch on an air ball as he was able to lay it off to Alvarez. Alvarez played a dime ball to opposite forward Petribu. Petribu was able to shield the ball and nutmeg his defender on his quick turn.
It would be long after until Bergman was able to find Petribu from the right hand side with a ground cross that just missed the foot of the forward.
It’s worth noting that in the warmups of the Rafters it’s not just the offensive players that are taking shots on goal, simply because the Rafters possess a team with players of attacking abilities even though their primary duty is defending. This was evident in the 68th minute as Brazil invited right back Munir Poca in the attack as Poca was able to hit a curling shot that went just over the cross bar for one of the best attempts of the night.
In the 80th minute the Rafters misplayed a ball to Warriors player Brown as he was able to take 15 yards of space and fire a shot upper 90 that was virtually impossible to save. The Warriors had their first lead of the night on an individually inspired and created goal. 2-1 Warriors
It was a 2-1 Warriors lead for what seemed like 3 seconds because it wouldn’t take long for the Rafters to strike back. In the 81st minute the Rafters showed off their resilience again on a corner kick as 7 players bunched inside the 6-yard box. The crowded box created chaos for the defense of the Warriors as McCormick was able to put a foot to the ball for the goal bringing the game immediately to a tie just after conceding.
The Warriors changed their point of attack after making a late substitution as Brandon Lee came on as a wing forward staying high and wide right. A couple darting runs gave the Rafters trouble but nothing that would see the score line change as the Rafters were able to keep him at bay.
With only two minutes to go the Rafters fans were put on edge as a shot was belted towards the left post for sure to go in had it not been for a fully stretched Quini who was able to punch the ball wide keeping the point intact that the Rafters had earned.
“We didn’t play our best soccer tonight, that’s credit to the Warriors…but I always tell our team if you can’t win the game, don’t lose it. But on the other side we defended well as a unit and we had our chances to win the game so all and all we’re not that down,” said Coach Palmer.
It was a time for celebration once again at Graf Orthodontics field as the team protected their undefeated home record and securing the point.
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