Well, that was a game for sure.
I'll keep this post short, but I wanted to share some of the things we learned about #TheIslandGames
Each Game Is Incredibly Important
There is no shortage of drama. With each team playing each team only once – and with 4 teams going home after just 7 games for the entire season… expect to see some exciting games as each game and each play becomes worth more.
The game started with some hard tackles from Elijah Adekugbe and Zajac in particular. Adekugbe was phenomenal in the first half.
There is no love lost between these two teams. Even late on, Jay Wheeldon roughed up the head of one of the Forge players behind the play and had to be reprimanded by the officials after the 4th official pointed it out to the ref.
No card, but not nice to see. Glad the 4th official pointed it out – as we don't need this kind of thing in the game.
The Stadium is Virtual!
The virtual stadium environment has been created by wTVision, a global leader in broadcasting solutions as virtual and augmented reality graphics for sports having completed work in Spain’s La Liga and other football leagues around the world.
The virtual field blocks high balls that go between the visible sky and the field – which means that sometimes the ball disappears from play completely.
The virtual studio is a little bit odd. You can see how it look on certain closeups low of the field like when the ball goes out of play.
High kicks completely disappear and come back. I found this a little distracting. I understand the idea to create a stadium “look” and provide spaces for virtual advertising, but it's a little strange for me.
There were a couple visual anomalies with how it plays out – and some screen distortion at times.
But it was surprisingly well done.
There were also 1/2 screen ads that ran during the two water breaks. I really hope this is just “pandemic” induced and not something that will carry on interrupting the beautiful game like all other sports which are broken up by advertising.
The PEI Field is Short
The length of the filed is relatively quite short. I know Oliver Platt mentioned it on Twitter being short, but still being well within FIFA regulations, but for me, the length of the field seemed to present a different style of game. There's not much room for long balls over the top. The top of the box seems like an area where a lot of goals are going to be scored.
Most I’ve spoken to have been fine with the turf. Pitch is about 100m long which is shorter than most clubs go for but not massively, and well within guidelines.Oliver Platt
Speaking of which, nice goal from Kyle Bekker with a nice run in from the top of the box.
I wonder how much this effects stategic gameplay for the teams.
For me, it just seemed like a shorter field. That's just my impression from watching the game. A short field is better than a narrow field.
Mo Babouli Looks Like the Real Deal
Now I know he's got a chip on his shoulder. He's got something to prove. He spent his last couple years playing indoor soccer – which for a player of his age and pedigree looks like going in the wrong direction.
But he had some really good poise on the ball and laid the ball off wide to David Choinière (of Montreal Impact pedigree) who eventually set up Kyle Bekker's header goal – which arguable should have been the game-winner were it not for a controversial handball call.
I suspect that the indoor leagues tend to give more credence to creative touches, rolls, and creativity – because the stakes for winning are less high. More like futsal in that way. So I'd expect to see him as the perfect super-sub during this tournament.
Paolo Sabak is Going To Be Good
Couple moments of incredible vision and passing. He seems like a great player for this league.
In a very slow first half by Forge, Sabak and Johnny Grant were the best players. And Sabak had some sublime vision. I expect to see some highlight-reel stuff from Sabak as the tournament continues.
Apart from Sabak, Johnny Grant was the only other play on Forge who impressed in the first half. Unfortunately, he went out with an injury just a little into the second half.
Spinning The Ball on Throw-ins Is Illegal
I remember last year having this conversion many times – with fans in the Wanderers ground and also with my own team – and everyone who has played the game at a decently high level was baffled by the refs allowing Nico Pasquati, in particular, to get away with foul throws.
Heck, in my “beer league” they love calling any type of foul throws.
You should have seen Pasquati's face when they called the first throw-in as foul and gave the throw to Forge. Classic. They only called one. I could not tell from the night and the lights if the others were thrown with the same “illegal” spin, but it looks like the throws-in this year are going to have to be cleaned up.
Cavalry dominated – like really dominated in the first half. Apart from the one Forge goal, Cavalry nearly played them off the pitch in the first 30 minutes. I was shocked that Forge could hardly get the ball into the Cavalry half.
Well that changed.
How much of it was due to match-fitness issues from COVID-19 and the long layoffs. There is no substitute for playing a full 90-minutes. So fitness could be a factor for all the teams – and squad rotation and management from a tournament perspective – rather than a season-long perspective – is going to be important during this tournament.
This should be an advantage to coaches that have tournament experience.
The Beard? Really?
I'm not a fan of the Bobby Smyrniotis beard. I know everybody likes it, but I'm just not feeling it. Seems like a talking point more than anything else. Plus, does it make his mask less effective? I don't know, but I find it distracting when he talks.
He did NOT look happy during the first half when Forge were getting absolutely dominated.
Who was marking Zator in the box? It looked like there were 2 free Cavalry players in the box who could have got free headers in. Such poor defending. Bobby must have been pulling his beard out watching that one.
Handball. Late on. Was it? Technically. The arm was raised away from the body. But it looked to me like the ball was going way over the bar. To me, I don't like these calls, especially when they are from a shot at such a close range. But it is what it is. So Forge and Cavalry settle each for one point.
The tournament is going to be close. Very close. Stay tuned for more
I discovered soccer as a U-6 coach. I love soccer, playing FIFA 23 and playing soccer in a men's league, and reporting on the Canadian Premier League. I am now living in Portugal (and playing futsal!)
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