Knights Lack Urgency Versus Royals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 9, 2014, 14:47
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTER — There is an obvious set of expectations for those who have the opportunity to put on a Thomas Dale soccer kit and be one of the starting XI. It's about keeping a certain form of tradition while displaying excellence on the pitch in every game they play.
It's why Thomas Dale had been known as the old Central District powerhouse, a team which contended annually for the title and dominated other teams along the way. The Knights' quick-passing, possession-orientated offense befuddled teams in the region and allowed them to gain a mental superiority in every match.
And while this year's team is young, they are still filled with talent from one end of the field to the other and it was no surprise they took the attack right to Prince George from the opening whistle, a team they had not lost to in 13 years. However, what was surprising was the abrupt turnaround which took place as the field tilted in the Royals' favor leaving Thomas Dale on their heels.
Even a 19' minute strike from Austin Hylton could do nothing to change the momentum of the contest as Prince George equalized just three minutes later and completely dominated possession throughout the rest of the match. The Royals would add three second half tallies and stun Thomas Dale by a 4-1 score, sending the Knights' players off the pitch with their heads down and their coach citing a lack of urgency.
"I think when you put on a Thomas Dale shirt, you have to realize there is a tradition," Knights' coach Mark Fowler said after the game. "They've got to bring it and they've got to play. If you don't do that then you are going to be found out and we were found out tonight."
Yet, for much of the game it seemed likely Thomas Dale would find a way to revert the game back to their side. The Knights worked hard to find additional goals by earning eight corner-kicks, but were not able to record a single shot on goal toward net.
Prince George did a fantastic job of marking up inside the box and challenged each ball in the air at a world-class level, leaving the Knights' scratching their heads at what they could have done differently. In fact, with each in-swinging corner kick fired toward the box by either Matt Mangano and Austin Correia, Fowler implored his team to find the sense of urgency in the box.
Numerous times there were free balls within 15 yards of goal for a chance to be won and each time Thomas Dale was beaten to the spot by a Royals' defender, squandering prime scoring chances.
"Prince George came to play and Tom has got them going well," Fowler said. "They're quick, they're physical and they're very athletic. They sort of won those challenges, those 50/50 balls, those challenges in the air and that's where the game is won and lost."
Thomas Dale also lost the game by getting away from their own style of play.
The Knights are known to be a possession-orientated team which likes to build through the back and move up the field in rapid succession. However, Thomas Dale struggled to do so against the Royals. While trying to connect passes from the back to the midfield, Prince George remained compact and closed down the passing lanes and that's when the youth of the Knights showed on the pitch.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Instead of remaining patient and methodically work their way through the stingy Royals' defense, they tried to fire balls over the high back line of Prince George. Thomas Dale's Arturo Johnson, Hylton and Mangano were key targets throughout the game, but it came out to nothing. While the Knights were able to get in behind the defense, the Royals often forced them offsides for a total of 10 times throughout the game which slowed all momentum.
"They had a sense of urgency in both penalty boxes because we did get behind them far more than they got behind us," Fowler said of the game. "But when they got behind they made it count because there was a sense of urgency and when we got in behind them, they tracked back well. They were dominant in those areas."
The Royals led the Knights in shots on goal, shots, and made almost every one a dangerous opportunity while Thomas Dale fell flat-footed in the most critical of moments. It's why the word of the day for Fowler was urgency.
For much of the game, the Knights did not play up to their fullest potential seemingly thinking their mental edge would be enough for a win. Yet, the Royals never relented and dealt the Knights a harsh lesson, one which could pull their season in one of two directions based on the response that's to come.