Greetings, United fans ... welcome back to another edition of View From the Booth ...
This week, I'm writing to you as fans of YOUR FIRST PLACE UNITED! Welcome to the sweet, sweet smell at the top of the table! Of course, we still have three matches left, two on the road, and the home finale against the defending national champions (although, we will be playing them the day after they play an important cup tie, so hope springs eternal).
Anyway, Sunday's match was a cracker. If you missed it, make sure you head on over to MyCujoo.tv and watch the livestream of the match. But be sure NOT to miss the home finale on June 30 ... the division championship could be on the line. So, tell your family (even the crazy ones) neighbors, your friends, your neighbor's friends, co-workers, ex-significant others, strangers on the street ... June 30 is the match you CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS!
United came out in a 4-3-3 formation once again with Lukasz Sulka, Josh Arvidsen, and Alberto Martinez up top to put pressure on the Eagles' back four. And early on, that trio hooked up for some crisp passing and a few darting runs, questioning the Eagle defense. All thet hard work paid off for, on eleven minutes, Sulka put a curling ball in on goal that keeper Nate Miller palmed out, but the rebound found its way to the feet of Alberto, who slammed it home for another early goal and a 1-nil lead.
That lead, however, was short-lived. Two minutes later, Shea Connell, a Zlatan look-alike at all of 6'4", took a ball just beyond the center line and drove, one-on-one, against Shane Toms. Shane stayed with his man for the best part of ten yards before Connell found an extra half-gear and got past Shane on the corner of the penalty area to the left of keeper Patrik Smith. Smith came out bravely to cut down the angle, but Connell went far post and tucked the ball neatly inside the post to level the score.
It was game on at that point. United kept feeding the ball through the Magic Man of the Midfield, Angel Martinez, who kept finding his mates up top as United launched eight shots on goal in the opening half, making Miller earn his keep. Eagles, on the other hand, kept trying to find Connell with balls over the top, but the coaching staff had made adjustments with the positioning of the back line so that Connell was rendered ineffective the remainder of the game, getting of three hurried, weak shots after his opening marker.
But the man of the match is the man I have dubbed "The Flea" ... one Angel Martinez. Now, before you think I'm being unkind to Angel, let me tell you that one of my favorite players growing up was a player by the name of Andy Provan, who played for the Philadelphia Atoms of the NASL. Provan was nicknamed "The Flea" because, as the smallest player on the team, he was also the biggest pest, getting under the skin of opponents with relentless motion in the midfield, and goals-a-plenty in the attacking third. So, it is with the deepest respect for his game that I now call him "The Flea".
And The Flea would leave a lasting imprint on the game. On multiple occasions, with his back to two defenders, he would make spin moves that left them in the dust while he neatly moved the ball upfield into the danger area. And, in the 44th minute, his persistence led to a United corner. Angel was sent to take the corner on the press box side of the field, and lofted a beautiful, chipped cross that sailed high enough to elude defenders, but not too high for the forehead of Lukasz Sulka to nod home that delicious cross for a 2-1 lead that sent the fans into delirium.
Angel was everywhere on the pitch, and his ability to possess the ball in traffic is reminiscent of an Eden Hazard. He had a blinder of a match, and I hope this is just the beginning.
In the second half, the game settled a bit as United had most of the possession, but Eagles were content to try and close down the passing lanes that were there in the opening 45, and hope that they could find their talisman, Connell, on the end of a long diagonal.
In the 56th minute, United won a fairly innocuous corner after Eagles misplayed the ball in the back. Martinez took the corner, but went short to Dusty Smith, who then whipped in a high, looping cross almost identical to Angel's assist in the first half, and found the waiting bandanna of Alberto Martinez, who nodded home the second sublime cross of the day for a 3-1 lead that would be the final score.
No recap of the match would be complete without a discussion of "The Goal That Never Was". In the 70th minute, Leo Lenth worked himself loose and went mano-y-mano on the keeper, Miller, and he chipped him from just outside the penalty spot. Lenth began celebrating the fourth United goal on the afternoon, racing toward the touchline with his arms raised.
But, his chip was just a leeeeeetle too high, and when it arched back down to Earth, it clipped the underside of the crossbar, bounced straight down, and back into the field of play. He hadn't scored, after all ... though ... had he followed his shot, he would have put in the carom. But he didn't ... and all we will ever have is "The Legend of Leo's Lost Goal" ... sorry, Leo ... but the tale needed telling.
All-in-all, a tremendous match, and the win puts us all alone in first place with a match coming up on Saturday in Dubuque, against a Union side we have yet to lose to in two seasons. Let's hope we can make it four on the spin against them to stay top of the table.
Until next time from the booth ... let's all STAND UNITED!