Thursday, August 02, 2012
By chance I found out that the Georgia Revolution, a team from the Southeast Division of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), played one more post-season game, namely for the Capital Cup (whatever that may be), against the winners of the Perrin Cup (ditto), FC Ljiljan, an amateur team from nearby Atlanta. It turned out that “the Revolution” were the holders of the 2011 Capital Cup, so they were keen to keep the cup in Conyers, GA.
After a drive of just under an hour, probably the shortest drive I have had since moving to the US, we arrived at the RYSA Soccerplex. Although it is, according to signs (see below), home to the North America Academy of Wolverhampton Wanderers, it is not a very impressive ‘soccerplex.’ We paid $5 for a generic non-ticket and made our way to the small wooden bleachers along the pitch.
On this relatively (for the Southeast) cool summer evening some 150 people turned up for the game, including some 50 away supporters from nearby Atlanta. Virtually all the fans of FC Ljiljan were Bosnians, or probably more accurately Bosnian-Americans, and so were most of their players and coaching staff. Still, my favorite fan supported the home team.
The game started with a horrendous defensive mistake, of which we would see many more, and a great save of the Georgia goalie. Not much later a messy attack of the Revolution ended with a good safe of the Ljiljan goalie. A bit later the hosts scored, but it was disallowed for offside (twice!). In the 16th minute the central defender of FC Ljiljan makes a huge mistake, something he would continue to do throughout the game, but the goalie again makes a great safe.
In the 25th minute, after many (semi-)chances for the Revolution, FC Ljiljan scores on a counter: 0-1. Less than ten minutes later a great attack over right is volleyed in from 5 meters: 0-2. The home crowd is shocked, while the Bosnian fans and players start to tease them. Both defenses leave huge spaces on both ends of the pitch, but Georgia can’t use them as they are all the time offside.
But in the 37th minute, after two bad touches, a Georgia striker finally scores: 1-2. There is hope again! Five minutes later an easy attack over left is volleyed in: 2-2. This is going to be a crazy game!
In the 44th minute the Georgia central defense makes another terrible blunder, but the Ljiljan striker shoots at the Georgia goalie. A minute later the Revolution attacks through the center and score and easy goal: 3-2. In the extra time the hosts shoot at the post and score yet another, after a huge mistake by the goalie: 4-2 is the half-time score!
In the second half the visitors seem to have given up. In the 49th minute a free kick is tipped in from 3 meters without any defense: 5-2. Four minutes later a Georgia attack is intercepted, but the central defender gives the ball away in the box: easy finish: 6-2. Two minutes later the same defender (!) looses the ball again, which is coolly finished: 7-2! This is too much for the “Atlanta Crew,” the Bosnian supporters, who leave.
They miss a semi-revival of FC Ljiljan, who score a professional goal in the 70th minute: 7-3. However, the revival is short-lived, as four minutes later a long attack involving 5-6 Georgia players leads to the 8-3. Two minutes later a lame penalty kick brings it to 8-4. The game gets nasty now, with various fouls, including a late stupid tackle, which leads to a red card for Georgia. This doesn’t alter the final result, however.
Georgia Revolution is a classic small US soccer club, with a men and women team, centered around a soccer academy. It has some fans, though many seem related to players (including youth). Still, for a club founded in 2010, it looks to be developing well.
The season of the Premier Development League (PDL) is extremely short, roughly the two-and-half months that universities are on break. So, although I had just moved to Georgia three days earlier, I had to drive to South Carolina to see at least one last game of the season. On the agenda was Palmetto FC in Greenwood, SC, a completely new team, founded in 2011, which tries to attract an audience from around South Carolina, the Palmetto state.
After driving around the campus of Lander University for about 10 minutes, we finally find out that the university’s sports complex, Jeff May Complex, is off campus. It is a beautiful new multi-sports complex with a baseball field and a soccer pitch, where during the regular season is home to Lander University’s soccer team (its coach also coaches Palmetto FC, but most players are from other universities in the Southeast).
We pay $7 for a beautiful big ticket and join the ca. 100 local people on the one bleacher. Most fans seem linked to the university or the players; few seem real soccer fans. The game is 20 minutes old and the Bantams, the home team, is already 1-0 up. It is extremely hot this afternoon, ca. 100 F (38 C) and humid, but they have to play this early as the visitors have to get back to North Virginia after the game.
Despite the excruciating heat, the players are quite mobile in the first half. In the 25th minute Palmetto volleys the ball from 16 meters at the post. Roughly five minutes later the Royals have a nice attach which ends up well over.
Overall the passing is quite decent, but very slow; the quality of play overall is mediocre. However, the incredible heat and humidity make any movement hard; in fact, I’m sweating just sitting on the bleachers. Half-time: 1-0.
After adorable half-time entertainment, involving several tiny kids trying to score a goal without falling over, we are ready for the second half. I’m impressed by the audience, which has stayed despite the brutally hot sun and lack of breeze or shade. In the 52nd minute a Palmetto attack goes wide and in the 59th minute a foul in the box is given outside; the consequent free kick is easily saved by the goalie.
After a harmless free kick of the visitors, the Bantams extend their lead when everyone misses a cross: 2-0. Time for a well-deserved drink break. In the 73rd minute a great long ball is beautifully finished: 3-0. Finally, in the last minutes of the game, Palmetto FC scores a fourth: 4-0 is also the final score.
Palmetto FC is a new team in a relatively small town, but with a good institutional link to Lander University, which has great facilities. There was a decent crowd and atmosphere. Definitely something to build upon in the next season!