Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Carolina Dynamo – North Virginia Royals (25-06-2010)

Making a multi-game groundhop in the US is not easy, but making one while also trying to watch two World Cup games per day (from 10.00-11.45 and 14.30-16.15) is near impossible. This notwithstanding, I set out on a three-game groundhop of almost 2.800 km (1.800 miles), taking me through nine states, and seeing game from three different leagues.

My first game was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 870 km (540 miles) from home. I had hoped to drive that one the game day itself, but because of the WC games I had to start a day earlier. So, I left home after the morning game and stopped in Dayton, Ohio, to see the second game, Camaroon-Netherlands, in the company of the whole squad of the Dayton Dutch Lions! After a nice chat with Oscar Moens and Ivar van Dinteren I continued my travels, arriving the next day fairly well rested at the BB&T Soccer Park, technically in Advance, NC.

The BB&T Soccer Park has no less than 14 full-size fields (of which 13 are lighted), including the stadium field that has a capacity of 1.500. It is mainly the home of the Twin City Youth Soccer Association, but the Carolina Dynamo at times play their home games there (their website list the Macpherson Stadium in Brown Summit as their home stadium). Although the game kicked-off at 19.30 it was still very hot (roughly 31C/88F) and extremely humid. Just sitting there made me sweat profusely (to be honest, this was the motto of the weekend). I went to the improve ticket stand and bought a ticket for $7.

The Carolina Dynamo are a well-established USL team, founded in 1993. They play in the Mid Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the Premier Development League (PDL), the Fourth Division in the US. That said, the facilities are modest, to say the least, as seems to be the fan base. Some 125-150 people had come to the game, though 25-50 of them were youth players of the visitors, North Virginia Royals, and their coaching staff. Few fans sported Dynamo merchandise.

After an instrumental national anthem the two very mixed teams started the game in the still sweltering heat. Before I even realized it the first goal had been scored by a header. I assumed it was the home team, because around me people were applauding, but it turned out that that was the women youth team of the visitors, who scored 0-1. Only three minutes later, in the 7th minute, it was already equal, after a nice through pass and easy finish: 1-1.

After that the game died down quickly. Not surprising given the heat and humidity the pace of the game was low. Moreover, both teams played defensive with a lot of short passes, mediocre control, and most long passes too soft. Consequently, most of the game was played in the center third of the pitch.

In the 28th minute an easy shot of a Dynamo player leads to some ball wrestling of the Royals goalie. Three minutes later a defensive error of the hosts is easily punished by the visitors: 1-2. While this leads to more pressure from the Dynamo, there are no real chances. In the 44th a Dynamo header is deflected to corner… 1-2 half time.

After the poor substitute players had worked up a sweat on the pitch, and the audience had raided the soda machines, we were ready for the second half. The first big chance for Dynamo came in the 48th minute. Five minutes later a long attack of the hosts saw a volley blocked and a header just wide. The Royals seemed to mainly waste time on the ball, happy to go home with a 1-2 victory. But both teams played very defensively, always keeping four players behind, even if there was no opposite striker.

In the 75th minute a terrible kick of the Royals goalie was picked up by the Dynamo striker, who used one touch too many. Two minutes later the same goalie drops the ball, but is again not punished. The rest of the half doesn’t bring much; except for a bicycle kick in the own face. In the end, the 1-2 is a deserved victory for the North Virginia Royals.

While the BB&T Soccer Park is one of the most impressive soccer facilities I have visited in the US, there clearly still is a long way to go for soccer in North Carolina (although they also have the USL Carolina RailHawks). The team was not very talented, although playing in such heat is hard for even the most talented. It makes you wonder whether a summer competition is the right choice for the (southern) US.

Still sweating I got into my car, as I had to be in Baltimore the next day, 615 km (380 miles) northeast. Hence, I set the goal to stay over in Richmond, VA, an almost four hour drive.

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