Europe boys soccer: Defense looms large in boys’ tournaments
May 16, 2007
Don’t let the records fool you.
That’s the gist of the advice from several high school soccer coaches as the season enters its final and most intense phase — 143 boys’ and girls’ games to be played beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday at four sites in the Ramstein-Kaiserslautern area.
A case in point is the boys’ Division I event. Heidelberg and Lakenheath — who played to a 0-0 tie in Heidelberg during the season and tied for the league title — finished seven points ahead of their nearest competitors in the six-game league schedule.
But Lions and Lancers fans shouldn’t count on a straight path to Friday’s 6:45 p.m. title game, warned Lakenheath boys’ coach Garrett Billington.
“We can’t dismiss any team in the tourney,” he wrote in an e-mail Monday. “Heidelberg can be taken, and so can we. Loss of focus, lack of sleep, an injury could net any team into the losers’ bracket.”
So could an unexpected stroke of luck, backed by a lights-out defensive effort.
“…defense [is] very important in the tournament format,” Hohenfels coach Shawn Rodman wrote in an e-mail. “The short games (30-minute halves in pool-play), as well as some short fields change the way that we are used to playing. If a team can get a quick goal and hold on defensively, they could beat a better team.”
And so could the unknown. While Billington’s Lancers are playing teams they’ve already faced without a loss this season, geography decrees otherwise for Divisions II, III and IV. In those tournaments, teams from Germany, Italy, the U.K., the low countries and Spain take on opponents far outside their normal competitive circles.
“Most of us will be playing teams we did not play during the regular season,” Bamberg coach Wade Krauchi wrote. “You can assume nothing and you must be prepared for anything.”
On paper, fans who attend any of the games at Ramstein High School, the nearby town of Hutschenhausen, or Kaiserslautern’s Vogelweh and Kapaun Air Station, may anticipate the following:
Division I: Defending champion Heidelberg (5-0-1) won the league title over Lakenheath (5-0-1) on goals-differential and will be chasing its 10th European title in 11 years. The Lions allowed only one goal in conference play, but Lakenheath isn’t the only impediment to that near-perfect 10.
“ISB (3-3-0) has several serious threats,” Billington wrote. “Ramstein (2-4-0) is forever in my nightmares.”
Patch, too, went 3-3 in conference play. Wiesbaden (2-4) and Kaiserslautern (0-6, but with a narrow 2-1 loss to Lakenheath) round out the field.
Division II: Defending champion SHAPE went 5-0-1 this season but faces an enormous challenge from three-time former champion Black Forest Academy (6-0), which took SHAPE into overtime in last year’s title game and gave up only one goal this season.
Not that either team wasn’t tested. Mannheim (3-4) dropped two 1-0 games to BFA, while SHAPE gave up two late goals to be tied 3-3 by Bitburg (3-1-2). Naples (3-3), Vilseck (3-3), Aviano (2-4), AFNORTH (1-3-2), Baumholder (0-5-1) and Würzburg (0-7) complete the field.
Division III: Defending champion Hohenfels didn’t miss a step in going 7-0 this season, but Rodman expects a battle.
“My assessment is that the Division III boys’ tournament is wide open,” he wrote. “The addition of Hanau (4-3-1) to Division III adds another quality team to an already tough field. AOSR (4-1-1 and winner of seven D-III titles) and Marymount (Italy champions at 5-0-1) will bring talented teams. ... and Rota’s always tough.”
III-North champion London Central went 3-2-1 in its final season and joins fellow lame duck Giessen (3-3-1), Ansbach (0-7), Vicenza (0-5-1), Sigonella (1-4-1) and Rota, 1-1 on a two-day two-team tour of Germany, in the 10-team field.
Division IV: Defending champion Milan (4-2 but the only team to beat AOSR this year) and III-North champ Brussels (5-2-1) appear to be the choices, but Bamberg’s Krauchi, after a season of block leaves and deployments, has a full squad together at last.
“We will be contenders, too,” he wrote of his Barons (2-4), who’ll be joined in the field by Alconbury (2-4-1), Menwith Hill (0-5-1) and remote foes from the far west and far east of the DODDS-Europe hemisphere — Lajes, Ankara and Incirlik.
Admission to all games is free.