Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cincinnati Kings - Cleveland Internationals

Football in the US often provides surprises. For example, because of the lack of adequate infrastructure teams often play well outside of their own town; hell, sometimes even outside of their own state (e.g. Spokane Spiders). This is also the case with the Cincinnati Kings from Ohio, who play at the Town & Country Soccer Stadium in Wilder, Kentucky; which is actually more like a suburb of Cincinnati, 10 km to the south of the city.

We arrived just after kick-off, hence missing the national anthem, and joined the roughly 200-250 other fans on the four-row make-shift bleachers on the one long side of the pitch. For some reason, there was no entrance fee (there were not even ticket offices). It seemed that only one fan had made the 250 miles (400 km) trip south from Cleveland.

Both the Cincinnati Kings and the Cleveland Internationals are relatively new teams, founded in 2005 and 2004 respectively, and are at the bottom of the table in the Great Lakes Division of the Premier Development League (PDL). Hence, it comes as no surprise that the level of play was not very high. It also shows the big differences within the PDL; even within leagues (e.g. the Kitsap Pumas were of a different planet than fellow-Northwest Division team Spokane Spiders).

Although the level of play wasn’t high, the game was quite entertaining. In the first 10 minutes both teams created a good chance, but it would be the hosts who scored first, after a clever through-pass: 1-0 in the 12th minute. This brought more pressure from the visitors, who equalized in the 28th minute, after a terrible screw-up by one of the Kings defenders.

And it would come even worse for the startled hosts. In the 35th minute the Internationals, through a substitute who has just come on the pitch, scored again after a defensive blunder: 1-2. Three minutes later the same guy scores again, but now from an offside position, so no score. Hence, 1-2 is the half time score.

The second half provides even slower play, but at least with some drama. After a good chance for the visitors in the 51st minute, the Kings punish a slow reaction from the Internationals goalie: 2-2. This seems to be the turning point of the game, as after that it is only the Kings that create serious attacks.

Still, as so often, when one team doesn’t finish its chances, the other one will profit, and so it also came this night. In the 79th minute it was again number 8 (Nagbe), who coolly finished a rebound: 2-3. The following ten minutes of ultimate pressure from the Kings couldn’t change the result.

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