Thursday, July 21, 2011

River City Rovers – Forest City London (04-07-2011)

I was looking for things to do on the 4th of July and found that in Louisville they have fireworks over the Ohio River… but, more importantly, they have a Premier Development League (PDL) team, the River City Rovers, which played a game that evening. And so, after a brief afternoon walk in the city center, we drove about 15 miles from downtown, to a very affluent, and very white, neighborhood, to the elitist Christian Academy of Louisville.

After paying $2 for parking (really?), we paid $10 for general admission and entered the school’s sporting grounds. Although the school has a decent football stadium, the River City Rovers play on a soccer pitch next to it, with some make-shift bleachers on one side of the pitch. Founded in 2010, the River City Rovers are in their first PDL season, in the Great Lakes Division. Tonight’s game was against Forest City London, from Canada, and thus the game was started with two national anthems.

There were exactly 125 people in the stadium (me included); I counted them personally. Some 5-10 were away fans; probably linked to the team. One of the linesmen was… a woman! The Canadian players tried to intimidate her from the start, putting pressure on her to favor them. In general, the Canadian players were much more like Europeans than Americans; where American soccer players are really polite, they don’t swear and address the referee as “sir,” the Canadians were complaining and cursing; to the chagrin of the spectators (this was, after all, at the Christian Academy ;-).

From the first minutes it was clear that this was going to be a poor quality game. After 4 minutes the Rovers give a good pass to the penalty spot, and the guy hits over the ball. In the 10th minute Forest City has a free kick at 17 meters, and kick it 5 meters over the goal. A minute later the guests should have gotten a penalty because of holding, but the ref doesn’t whistle it. After 23 minutes a long ball is missed by the Canadian goalie, and the Rovers score an easy goal: 1-0.

After that both teams have some soft chances, but overall the passing is extremely poor and few real chances are created. The Rovers goalie makes some decent saves; turns out he is a Dutch guy, who used to play in the ajax youth. Begs the question: what went so horribly wrong that he would end up here? Half Time: 1-0.

During the half time everyone plays on the pitch; mostly little kids and a couple of adult Africans (who looks kind of lost in this see of conservative Christian white Americanism). The second half is more of the same; perhaps even less quality. In the 61th minute a messy situation in the goal area leads to the equalizer: 1-1. A couple minutes later the Canadian goalie intercepts a good attack. In the 65th minute a Forest City player shoots from 16 meters with his left foot: 15 meters wide!

The rest of the game is a lot of work, and little play. There is a nasty head collision, which leads to a long break, but both players can continue. In the 84th minute three Forest City attack three Rovers defenders, but they pass rather than shoot, and the chance is wasted. In the 88th minute there is much confusion in the Canadian box, but the goalie pulls out a great save. In the dying seconds of the game, the guests go at goal one more time, but shoot wide. Clearly, 1-1 is the maximum possible for these two teams.

The PDL is a weird league. The difference between teams such as the River City Rovers and, say, Kitsap Pumas are so enormous. Moreover, one starts to wonder about the whole use of the enterprise, as they play a very short season, have no youth teams, and exist largely outside of the main cities (in rich, white suburbs).

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