From all around the world, they came. They had been chosen for their skills, for their experience and for their ability to send a simple email before the expiration of a deadline. They were the Football Managers. And this is the Football Manager Cup.
EXCELSIOR 0 – 2 HOUSTON DYNAMO
Alas, this is the end of The Set Pieces’ involvement in the competition. Having worked our way to the third round, we came unstuck at the hands of Max Dudfield’s ruthless Houston Dynamos. You can coach your players, you can plan your tactics, you can react quickly to changing circumstances, but the one thing you cannot do is cope with isolated incidents of unimaginable stupidity. Two preposterous mistakes cost us the game, the tournament, the sexy trophy and our dignity. Bad words were uttered. Tea cups were thrown. It is not a day we will remember with fondness.
Not so for Max Dudfield, however. He’s delighted.
“I was worried about the lads ability to be up for the game after a forfeit last week, but they played their hearts out in true counter attacking style!” he beamed. “Helped by some calamitous keeping, we rifled in a free kick from distance and sat back for the rest of the game in true Houston style!”
INCHEON 2 – 1 TORONTO (AET)
Well this was quite the match-up. Davey Blackett and his souvenir posters, against FM Tensai and his brilliant blogs. Photoshop vs WordPress. Keen South-Koreans vs Cash rich Canadians. It didn’t disappoint.
“We were out of this until the 91st minute. After the 94th, glory was at hand” said Blackett.
“I was sitting there in the dressing room at half-time, playing the lads some Cocteau Twins and wondering what to do. Lee Yun-Pyo had shipped an own goal on 8 minutes and was hobbling, Kim Jin-Hwan my other starting centre-half had already been crocked along with Kim Jae-Woong before the first quarter hour was up. We’d barely had a shot on goal. Sebastian Giovinco was dancing around like a bastard and Michael Bradley was destroying my midfield like a second bastard. I was starting to think my tin pot Sampaoli tribute tactics weren’t really cutting it against a team which could afford to not even give Jozy Altidore a start. What to do.”
It was looking bleak for Incheon until an inspired musical change, and as Blackett tells us ‘the rest is now (recent) history.’ Nobody can resist Purple Rain.
“A 91st minute equaliser must have been like a kick in all the worst places, but when we rode that wave straight into the first period of extra time to go ahead on 94 minutes – it was just cruel, but in that euphoric way being cruel sometimes feels. A sending off a minute before the end (Kim Won-Sik) was too late to be of any consequence.” In a four minute blitz, the Koreans had put two in the back of the net leaving Toronto stunned.
The victory is bittersweet as it may limit future blogs from FM Tensai which are class, and he was certainly a classy opponent. Thanks, Davey.” Below is another awesome poster, this time of Kim Dong-Suk who grabbed the extra-time winner.
Going against the grain of goals galore, this tight and injury-ridden affair between Aaron Smithies’ Aberdeen and Findlay Mair’s Colorado Rapids would be decided by one ridiculously lucky goal scored in extra time (which you can see below).
“It’s over.” said Smithies. “Aberdeen’s luck finally ran out and they were dumped out in extra time by a resolute Colorado Rapids. The game was a blood bath for 90 minutes as a total of 7 injuries were inflicted between the two sides. No football took place in regular time and it wasn’t until extra time when both sides decided to try and score a goal. Unfortunately for the Dons it was the Rapids who scored first.”
“Oh well, thanks for organising a lovely tournament and good luck to Findlay in the next round.” he muttered. “I’m off for a stiff drink, a pie and a mournful look into the middle distance.” Let’s be honest, who doesn’t look mournfully into the middle distance after a Football Manager loss?
“Jonny Hayes, Kenny McLean, Niall McGinn, Bobby Burling, Marc Buch and Nick LaBrocca all picked up injuries in a crunching tie as the local ambulance had to begin turning away patients as they were too busy treating minor sports injuries.” Mair joked. “The only goal was as scrappy as the rest of the proceedings as the ball pinballed around the box until eventually bouncing off of a helpless Jamie Langfield into the path of Juan Ramirez. Colorado then sat back and saw the game out.”
Whether it is 4-2, 5-0 or 1-0, a win is a win. Colorado progress to the next round with not just a few, but many scars to show for it.
GFC AJACCIO 2 – 4 SEATTLE SOUNDERS (AET)
Another goal fest took place here in the exotic islands of Corsica, with Rhys Hayward and his French side GFC Ajaccio taking on Alexander Partridge and his American powerhouses, Seattle Sounders.
“Seattle were a little out of sorts in the third round of the cup this Thursday.” began Partridge.
In a surprising turn of events, the Sounders were struggling, and it was all GFC Ajaccio. “I struggled to use my players to effectively close down Poggi and co, it was safe to say Rhys had got it tactically spot on.” Lots of praise coming in for Hayward & co.
However, some managerial genius from Partridge saw the ‘princess’ Obafemi Martins substituted, complete with a slap on the wrist after a poor performance. “The change around led to Clint Dempsey getting a run up front, perhaps not known for his ability as a false 9, but unlike last week that didn’t seem to bother him. As soon as the change was made he tore down on goal twice and popped the ball in the back of the net, his composure was the only real difference between the two sides.”
So there you have it, a 4-2 victory for Seattle but boy did they have to work for it. Partridge concluded his email with “Sounders in the next round(ers)…I’ll get my coat.” The less said about that the better.
Ajaccio boss Hayward was brief but conclusive with his post match comments, saying “A thrilling match ended in a 4-2 defeat for the mighty Ajaccio at the hands of a star studded Seattle. Been great fun playing chaps, thanks!” Thank you, Rhys. Thank you.
There is no greater underdog story in the history of humankind than Star Wars.
Do I have your attention? Good.
With Excelsior having been soundly beaten earlier in the week, Dutch representation in the competition hung by a thread. After two attacking performances in previous rounds, and faced with the might of a Philadelphia juggernaut clearly several brackets of quality above them, a change of tempo was the order of the day. The Zwolle strategy was the massed ranks of defence. 4-5-1. Creativity set to ‘Roy Hodgson’. Work rate set to ‘Tranmere Rovers’. Keep it tight and no-one gets hurt.
‘Stay on target!’
They did this at the cost of talented left forward Mustafa Saymak and right wing powerhouse Thanasis Kargounis.
‘Stay on target!’
For forty five anxious minutes they bore the brunt of an insatiable – if wayward – Philadelphia attack. Ten attempts and seven on target may have produced no goals, but the pressure was there for everyone to see.
‘Hang on back there!’
Lone striker Tomas Necid was increasingly isolated at the other end with just one attempt chalked up. The Americans would need just one attempt of their own five minutes after half time.
‘Three marks, coming in: two-ten!’
The warnings came too late. A ball played across the Zwolle defence found them flat-footed and exposed. Right winger Sebastian Le Toux slipped unnoticed behind the full back and caught the ball sweetly on the half volley to send Philadelphia crashing into a forty-eighth minute lead.
‘This is it boys.’
Zwolle heads dropped. Their attempts at out-and-out resistance had been crushed, their defensive strategy futile. At such a time, the voice of Ben Kenobi may have come into their minds.
‘Trust your feelings.’
A double substitution and a change in mentalities were immediately called for, Saymak and Karagounis introduced to restore the attacking diamond that had been responsible for five goals in the previous two games.
‘You’ve switched off your targeting computer. What’s wrong?’ ‘Nothing. I’m alright.’
The next ten minutes belonged to the Dutch side, who notched up five attempts in that time and were starting to fight back.
‘If we’re going in, we’re going in full throttle. That ought to keep those fighters off our back.’
Sixty six minutes; another twist. Midfielder Ben Rienstra found himself in the Philadelphia penalty area, only to be clattered unceremoniously by centre half Austin Berry.
The penalty was given, despite appearances that the Dutchman may have dived. Tomas Necid steadied himself, the Czech international no stranger to decisive spot kicks.
The ball thundered back off the crossbar. Gasps from the Zwolle bench.
‘It didn’t go in. Just impacted on the surface.’
More Zwolle chances followed as Philadelphia struggled to regroup against the new attacking mentality.
‘We’ve analysed their attack sir, and there is a danger…’
The seventieth minute saw the breakthrough. A throw in to the corner of the box was gathered by Necid who turned and lifted it over the head Karagounis (who else?), the ball dropping onto the Greek winger’s outstretched toe to be lashed home for a seventieth minute equaliser.
‘Good shooting Wedge.’
There was no stopping the momentum now. Zwolle came forward through Saymak but it broke down. Philadelphia countered through Brown but it was cleared by Sainsbury. The clock ticked over to eighty five minutes. The tension peaked.
‘Firing range in five minutes.’
Thanasis Karagounis counter-countered, flying down the right touchline. He cut the ball inside to Jesper Drost on the edge of the penalty area who unleashed a rifled effort that goalkeeper M’Bohli could only parry to Necid just inside the area. Seizing upon the loose ball, the Czech didn’t even need to take a touch before cupping his laces around the ball’s stitching and launching it back at the keeper.
‘Great shot kid! That was one in a million!’
The Dutch fans went wild as the Americans desperately appealed for offside. The goal stood. It was two-one. Five anxious minutes later the Zwolle players were celebrating in front of their fans, hopping down from the ladders of their X-Wings shouting:
They cheered their warriors home. Rightly honoured by the fans for their determination in defence and their tenacity in the cause of attack, they were heroes to a man. In the Set Pieces FM Cup, even Chewie gets a medal.” Hollywood awaits for both of these chaps. Onto the next round they go!
FC UTRECHT 4 – 2 ULSAN HYUNDAI (AET)
Our friends at @FCUtrecht will be delighted to hear that Joe Krishnan has again progressed after coming through a six goal thriller with South-Korean side Ulsan Hyundai. In a game where an incredible 24 shots on target took place, it’s no surprise that Krishnan was under no illusions at full time. “Tough game, but got there in the end” he reported back to us. Sometimes, that’s all that needs to be said.
— FC Utrecht (@fcutrecht) June 15, 2015
Jay Jaffa, managing Ulsan Hyundai was slightly more philosophical after defeat, claiming that “All good things must come to an end, and it’s with great regret I report Ulsan Hyundai’s exit from the Set Pieces Cup. It’s been emotional but as the old Korean proverb says; if you keep hitting the woodwork, a Dutchman will punish you. So yes, I’m out.” Oh yes. Those old Korean proverbs.
AND NOW THE CLASSIFIED FOOTBALL RESULTS
AS Livorno 1 – 0 RC Lens
AS Nancy 2 – 0 SC Cambuur
CD Leganes 0 – 2 Odense BK
Colorado Rapids 1 – 0 Aberdeen (AET)
Coventry 0 – 4 FC Seoul
Dundee Utd 2 – 0 Albacete (AET)
ESTAC Troyes 3 – 0 Hamilton
Excelsior 0 – 2 Houston Dynamo
Inverness CT 2 – 3 Real Salt Lake
Partick Thistle F – F CD Mirandes
Philadelphia 1 – 2 PEC Zwolle
Rotherham 1 – 2 Llagostera
Seattle Sounders 4 – 2 GFC Ajaccio
Stade Brestois 0 – 1 NY Red Bulls
Toronto FC 1 – 2 Incheon (AET)
Ulsan Hyundai 2 – 4 FC Utrecht (AET)
If your team made it through to the third round and you’d like to be featured in the next round-up, send us something interesting. As you can see, we particularly like match reports, blogs, pics and videos. However, if you’d like to host it all on your own blog, just send us a link and we’ll send our readers to you. The email address is: [email protected]