Sweeper

Earlier tonight I stood out in the damp cold and watched Ph.’s eighth match
of the season, a 1-0 win over Central Square. This is his senior season,
and they’re struggling, although struggling well, since tonight was their
second win in a row to move them to 3-5-1. On an injured/short-handed/overmatched team? Struggle well.

I’ve been withholding a lot of frustrations about the program, about the
coach, about the ways Ph. has developed as a varsity soccer athlete for three years now,
and I won’t air out all (any?) of those frustrations here. Suffice it to say that
he is the head captain, and they are getting better. He is also the starting
sweeper, shoring up the defense, and playing a position he has never
played before. All of us in the M-H household scratched our heads about
that decision when it came up a few weeks ago. Ph. has always played
forward or wing, even center mid on a few occasions, usually to give the regular
CM a rest. But sweeper?

It was clear early on that Ph. was initially unhappy with the assignment, struggling with the
vocalism, timing, and attitude required to play the position well. Sweepers are
gritty and mean. They direct traffic. They anticipate runs. His athleticism and
soccer smarts helped him cover what would be considered mistakes for most
sweepers: getting out of position, not talking out the matchups on a restart,
mis-judging a ball. Of course, tonight I saw something completely
different. I frankly wasn’t sure that it would happen (much less happen
this quickly), but he has developed, in two or three weeks, an impressive
facility for the position. He covered through balls, stepped up when the
stopper was compromised, talked to his outside defenders and keeper, encouraged
his teammates, and played an all around great game in the back. He’s
adapted to it, and I mention it largely because it is a credit to him more than
anyone else.

Yeah, that’s all. No venting of frustrations (yet!). Just saying
that Ph. had a great game tonight.