The Metropolitan Oval U-12 team opened their spring campaign with a visit to rivals NY Red Bulls this past Saturday afternoon. Fresh off a trip to the finals in the NYC Indoor Classic–the culmination of their winter futsal training cycle–the Met Oval boys had yet to train outdoors in preparation for this opening match. With temperatures hovering around 32ºF, the team headed to the Red Bulls training facility in NJ expecting a competitive and entertaining contest.
The game would not disappoint as both teams were evenly balanced and motivated for a positive result. The Red Bulls came out strong and capitalized on their early pressure, as a miscued Met Oval back pass led to an indirect Red Bulls free-kick from extremely close range inside the box. The Red Bulls promptly converted, giving themselves a 1-0 lead after just one minute of play. Despite the sluggish start, Met Oval stuck together and exhibited impressive mental toughness as they fought back for the remainder of the 1st half, establishing quality possession and an ability to play out of the back against high pressure.
The intensity from both teams continued in the second half. Met Oval was able to break through the defensive lines of the Red Bulls forcing them to withdraw from their high pressure tactic. High quality midfield possession and sharp passing combinations helped Met Oval produce numerous attacking waves and threatening goal scoring opportunities. Met Oval equalized 15 minutes into the second half when Abdul Seck forcefully slotted a rebound from Balthazar Saunders' long-range effort that struck off the post, providing a spark to an already energetic and intense match.
Both sides responded well to Abdul’s equalizer, raising the intensity and trading goal-scoring opportunities for the remainder of the second half. Strong defensive performances by Jobany Garcia, Juan Orosio, Omar Torres and GK Manny Smalios helped Met Oval keep the score level at one. Pierro Elias’ and Niko Kapandaze’s attacking prowess continued to generate goal-scoring opportunities, keeping the Red Bulls on their heels defensively. Met Oval almost found winning goals in the final minutes via efforts from both Balthazar and Niko, but unfortunately, their shots narrowly missed the target.
The match finished with a final score of 1-1. Though Met Oval would have liked to have opened their spring campaign in winning fashion, the boys have many confidence-building positives to take away from this performance. They showed mental toughness away from home and an ability to compete with any team in the region. Most importantly, they showed an impressive amount of trust in the Met Oval style of play (uptempo and possession-based attacking soccer) in adverse conditions.
Met Oval U-12 will look to build off this result when they host Everton FC Westchester U-12 in their next match in the Northeast Pre-Academy League. This game is scheduled for a 1:00pm kickoff on Saturday, March 21st at Met Oval.