Archive for April, 2009

Around the net

April 30, 2009

I’ve been writing.

Just not here, it seems.

For those of you who are interested in what I’m up to – and I can’t fathom why that would be the case – here’s some of my recent contributions to the world of blogging:

EPL Talk (This week in the Premier League)

The Offside Trap (My soccer blog)

910rec.com (Fayetteville Observer Youth Sports)

A night in Southern Pines

April 30, 2009

Finally, The Offside Trap slips out of the office and into the bleachers for a soccer match.

One of the bigger games on the schedule last night was Jack Britt at Pinecrest. So I headed out to Southern Pines to check it out.

I had a good time, met some nice folks and learned a few things from Pinecrest’s 3-0 win over the Buccaneers:

1. It’s hard to be a goal keeper – Jack Britt keeper Bailey Mathias had already made three saves when she was called upon again in the 24th minute against Antonia Meyers, who had slipped past the Buccaneer back line. Mathias made a great save to deny Meyers, but collided with another Patriot player in the process. She left the game with a injury to her right forearm.

Jacklyn Carrillo, normally a defender, took a two-minute shift in goal before JV keeper Sloan Shank could be pulled off the bus, which was about to leave for Fayetteville, and forced into action.

Under the circumstances, I thought she did a pretty good job.

2. There’s a reason Pinecrest is good – The Patriots have developed quite a soccer program over there, piling up a 95-2-1 mark in league games since 2002. Last night’s win was No. 28 in a row in the MSEC, according to the good folks at the Southern Pines Pilot.

Watching them last night, it’s easy to see why they’ve been so successful.

Keeper Sarah Dejak commands the box well. She knows when to hold her position and when to come off her line. And the back four was cool and composed against a Britt side that showed plenty of energy and aggression in the attacking third.

Every time Rachael Ramey or some other Buc attacker got near the box, one or two Patriots were there to prevent any clean looks at Dejak’s goal.

In the midfield, Pinecrest moved the ball well in both 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations. They created a slew of chances, getting off 17 shots – 12 of which were on target.

And they’re deep, too. Abbey kept rotating in fresh players and there wasn’t much drop off when the subs came in.

3. You’ve got to score when you’re in control – For the first 10 minutes or so, Jack Britt was flying around the pitch. The Bucs were winning balls in the midfield, forcing the hosts back into their own defensive third.

But all that possession and all of that energy didn’t lead to any real threats on goal. Pinecrest weathered the storm and eventually took control of the game.

4. Set pieces matter – Goals one and two came from corner kicks for Pinecrest, and a perfect storm of events made for great scoring chances for the Pats.

You’ve got a goalie who’s already played in a JV match that came into the game without warming up, and her first significant action was defending a pair of corner kicks.

And, according to Coach Bunphithak, winning balls in the air has been a problem for his side all season.

On top of that, Pinecrest’s Rachel Dokich served in two great balls. The first, in the 29th minute, went over Shank and right on to the head of Keegan Cary, who duly banged it home from about five yards out for a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later, another great service landed near the penalty spot where a Britt defender, trying to clear it out for another corner, put in in the net to make it 2-0.

That’s a big hill to climb against quality opposition.

5. Who stood out – Pinecrest’s third goal came on a nice header from Ally Parziale, and the entire back line for the Patriots played well. For Jack Britt, I came away impressed with the energy of Ramey and Osaro Obanor. Ramey did a lot of running as the lead forward for the Bucs while Obanor had a strong showing as a holding midfielder.

Below, I added the interviews from last night’s game:

Todd Abbey interview

Nat Bunphithak interview

Congrats to the Patriots

April 29, 2009

Pinecrest pretty much locked up the Mid-Southeastern title with tonight’s 3-0 win over Jack Britt.

Check back tomorrow, when I’ll give a few thoughts on the game.

Why not now, you ask?

Simple. I’m sleepy.

Good night, foks.

Grade this

April 28, 2009

I’ve been seeing grades everywhere for the 2009 NFL Draft, so I feel compelled to share mine.

Ready?

Here it is:

INCOMPLETE!!!

Seriously? Aside from the Raiders thumbing their nose at convention – and common sense – it’s pretty much a crapshoot to rate teams two or three days after a draft.

Now three years? That’s a different story.

So, let’s look at the winners and losers of the 2006 NFL Draft, since we now have enough data to do so.

Biggest bust – Michael Huff, a safety out of Texas, went to the Raiders at No. 7 overall. He was benched last season after Week 5 and ended up with 28 tackles on the season.

Other flops include: Matt Leinart (No. 10, Arizona), Tye Hill (No. 15, St. Louis) and John McCargo (No. 26, Buffalo)

Biggest steal – Forget his legal issues for a minute, the Broncos selected Brandon Marshall, a wideout from Central Florida, in the fourth round with the 119th pick overall. He had 104 catches in 15 games last season, which is a pretty good return on a mid-rounder.

Other bargains include: Leon Washington (round 4, Jets), Owen Daniels (round four, Houston), Antoine Bethea (Indy, round 6) and Courtland Finnegan (round seven, Tennessee) have all become Pro Bowlers.

Solving the great debate – The run-up to this draft was simple: Should the Texans draft Reggie Bush or Vince Young? Instead, they chose N.C. State defensive end Mario Williams.

It’s worked out well, as he made his first Pro Bowl last season after piling up 53 tackles and 12 sacks.

The Saints ended up with Bush, and while he hasn’t dominated games as often as he did at USC, he’s been a solid performer as well.

The Titans got Vince Young, and considering that he lost his starting job to Kerry Collins, they have have the shortest straw on this one.

Best picks, by round

1. Williams, Jay Cutler (Denver, No. 10) and Nick Mangold (Jets, No. 29)

2. DeMeco Ryans (Houston, No. 33), Devin Hester (Chicago, No. 57) and Marcus NcNeill (San Dieg0, No. 50)

3. Jerious Norwood (Atlanta, No. 79) and Eric Winston (Houston, No. 66)

4. Washington, Daniels and Marshall

5. Kyle Williams (Buffalo, No. 134) and Parys Haralson (San Francisco, No. 140)

6. Bethea, Reed Doughty (Washington, No. 173) and Keith Ellison (Buffalo, No. 178)

7. Finnegan and Ryan Plackemeier (Seattle, No. 239) 

Tune in next year when we break down the 2007 choose-up…

Monday morning centerback

April 27, 2009

The last two weeks of the regular season have arrived for our area schools.

So, let’s run down where we are:

Mid-Southeastern Conference

Assuming Pinecrest handles Hoke County and Jack Britt gets by Westover this evening, the Bucs and Patriots will meet in Southern Pines Wednesday night to decide the conference championship.

Pinecrest (11-3, 9-0) clipped Britt, 5-1, back on March 30, but the Buccaneers (11-5-1, 9-1) can get back a share of the lead if they can reverse that result.

Scotland, Hoke and Richmond hold down the next three spots, while Seventy-First, Douglas Byrd and Westover round out the standings.

Two Rivers

As we mentioned last week, Terry Sanford is your 2009 regular season champion. South View, Lumberton and Pine Forest are fighting for second place while E.E. Smith, Cape Fear and Purnell Swett complete the standings.

EDIT: I sent a note to Jeremiah Mattingly, coach of the South View Tigers, to ask him about the tiebreaker scenario.

This was his response:

“It goes by winning percentage, where a tie counts as half win and half loss. This would cause an overall tie with Lumberton. Two of our ties would be a win and a loss and our third tie remains causing us to be 8-3-1 as well. They will get the second seed, as they won the head to head matchup. That is if both of us win out.”

No matter how it turns out, it has been quite a year for the youthful Tigers.

Cape Fear Valley

Gray’s Creek (10-6-2, 4-4-1) hosts Southern Lee tonight in a big game. With a win, the Lady Bears can move up to fourth place in the league standings – and a half-game off of the third-place team, Harnett Central, which visits on Wednesday.

A good week can mean big things for coach Rick Kaiser’s side, especially when you consider that the three remaining games on the docket are against the two bottom teams – South Johnston and Triton.

Cape Fear Independent

Fayetteville Academy, still ranked second in the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association Private School poll, is also leading the CFIC with a spotless 7-0 league record (13-2-1 overall).

The academy can lock up the league title with a home win over The O’Neal School on Tuesday night. A win would assure the Eagles of eight league wins and they will have swept the two teams chasing them, thus locking up the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

Village Christian and O’Neal are tied for second at 4-2 in league play, but today’s game in Fayetteville could clear that up a bit.

Cape Fear Academy (9-4-1, 3-4), Fayetteville Christian (5-7-2, 2-5) and Harrell’s Christian (0-9-1, 0-7) round out the field.

Goals of the week

April 24, 2009

Can we go anywhere else for this week’s top honor than Arsenal and Russian international Andrei Arshavin?

He took four shots and scored four goals for the Gunners in their pulsating 4-4 draw at Liverpool on Tuesday.

Enjoy:

No. 3 and holding

April 23, 2009

Fayetteville Academy is in a familiar spot in this week’s North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association Poll – third.

I think they should be second behind Charlotte Latin, but I don’t get a vote in the poll.

Meanwhile, in the 4A poll, Terry Sanford continues to knock on the door in the “others receiving votes section.”

Kudos to the Bulldogs

April 21, 2009

Congrats to Terry Sanford for winning the Two Rivers title last night with its 1-0 win over Lumberton.

I asked coach Bryan Madej for a comment, and this is what he sent:

“Certainly I think last night was just typical with us and Lumberton and the rivalry that consists of us two. It wasn’t the best game played on both sides due to us being on spring break the past week and it was obvious with the rust show on both teams with our play, but I am fortunate our girls were able to grit it out and with the motivation of being regular season conference champs I really didn’t think we would be denied.”

Isiah Thomas and other NBA myths

April 20, 2009

Perhaps no league is more misunderstood than the National Basketball Association.

So let’s clean up a couple of things:

Myth No. 1: The NBA is full of thugs

Now, there is some precedent for this line of thinking. We all remember the “Malice at the Palace” incident back in 2004.

But think about it. What league has given us the most bad athlete, bad role model type stories?

It’s the NFL, of course.

NBA players, I think, face more scrutiny than their NFL counterparts. My theory as to why is the fact that their faces, hairstyle and body art is on full display 82 times a year while the NFL makes sure that all you ever see of Terrell Owens is his jersey and helmet.

Why do you think removing your helmet on the field and altering the team uniform in any way results in a fine? It’s all about image. The NFL works hard to keep it shiny.

On the surface, anyway.

The NBA has made great strides in this area in recent years. The dress code, I thought, was a bit over the top when it was introduced, but the players seem to have embraced it.

And the current generation of young stars – Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James – are all very talented players who also happen to be good role models as well.

The NBA Playoffs are here. Watch them with an open mind. You might just be surprised.

Myth No. 2: Isiah Thomas is a good basketball mind

Florida International hired Thomas, a member of the NBA’s 50th anniversary all-time team, to be its coach recently.

I’m just not sure why.

No one doubts his on-court skills. He was a 12-time all-star and two-time NBA champions with the Detroit Pistons.

But he is a walking General Motors when it comes to managing anything.

He bought the Continental Basketball Association for $5 million in 1998, refused to sell it to the NBA for $11 million two years later and the league went into bankruptcy and folded.

Nice.

His three years as coach of the Indiana Pacers weren’t bad, but he never won a division title or a playoff series in his tenure.

From 2003-2006, he was general manager of the New York Knicks where he produced the league’s highest payroll and one of its worst teams.

He then took the coaching reins and went 56-108 in the next two seasons.

Toss in a sexual harassment lawsuit, which he fought in court and lost to the tune of $11.6 million (MSG’s money, not his), charges of racism and an apparent drug overdose and I have to wonder what he’s done well since hanging up his sneakers.

Maybe he’ll shock us all and turn the Sun Belt on its ear in a positive way.

For a change.

Poll watching and other tidbits

April 20, 2009

It’s Monday, so let’s have a look at the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association Polls.

Fayetteville Academy (11-2-1) moved up a spot to No. 3 in this week’s Private School Poll, which is impressive when you consider that the team took the week off.

When you’re good, you’re good.

In completely unrelated news, coach Andrew McCarthy’s beloved Boro took a point from my favorite team, Fulham, over the weekend to inch closer to safety in the Premiership. Darron Ward’s Newcastle wasn’t quite so lucky, falling at Spurs, 1-0.

If only Alan Shearer were playing instead of managing…

Village Christian (6-1) is in the also receiving votes list for the poll.

Terry Sanford (10-1-1) is an honorable mention in the 4A Poll,and the Lady Bulldogs have a massive game tonight at home against Lumberton.

Should they complete the season sweep – Terry Sanford won 2-1 at Lumberton on March 18 – coach Bryan Madej’s squad will assure itself a Two Rivers conference title. 

As it stands right now, the magic number (Bulldog wins or Pirates losses) is two.

Over in the Mid-Southeastern, Pinecrest still holds a half-game lead over Jack Britt in the standings. It’s a top-four Monday in the league as the leaders will visit third-place Scotland County, while the Buccaneers will travel to fourth-place Hoke County.

In the 3A ranks, Gray’s Creek (9-5-1) will try to climb into the top four in the Cape Fear Valley when it hosts Overhills today.

On the private school front, Fayetteville Academy, with a 5-0 league mark in the Cape Fear Independent Conference, has a game-and-a-half lead over Village Christian.

They play at the academy on Tuesday.

Cape Fear (8-2-1, 3-2) has a half-game edge over The O’Neal School (3-3, 2-2) for third while Fayetteville Christian (4-6-1, 1-4) and Harrell’s Christian (0-7-1, 0-4) round out the standings.