Team Finland, in the U12 division of the Teaneck Junior Soccer League, had a mediocre regular season, finishing with a record of three wins, three losses, and three ties. They scored 23 goals in the regular season and gave up 23 goals.
The month of October wasn’t kind to Team Finland as it finished the month with a record of 0-2-2! As the saying goes, “It’s not how you start the race, but instead how you finish.” Coaches Glickman, Goldberg, Lehrer and Wolf searched for answers as to how to motivate the players, as the energy the team members evinced at the beginning of the season seemed to fade away in the face of their poor October showing.
Fortunately, the team had a bunch of solid players. With a defense that was anchored by Reuben, Menachem, Shaya, Kenyon and Omer, they knew how important their roles were. Jacob played a stellar goal all season and was ready to begin the playoffs. Mid-fielders Ariana, Avi, Ezra, Tyler, Juan and Zach rounded out the group, but had a hard job of keeping the ball on the offensive.
As the month of November began, the team was excited to turn the page and get ready for the playoff push! As the number-two seed, Team Finland drew the number-three seed, Team Chile. After scoring first and getting a 1-0 lead, Finland did a good job of protecting the lead. Chile nearly scored in the closing minutes, but Finland escaped with a 1-0 win. Team Finland was on its way to the championship game versus Team Ireland.
Ireland was the number-four seed, but it also had the best player in the league. Finland witnessed firsthand their win, as team Ireland beat the mighty number-one seed, Italy, in the playoffs. After battling to a 2-2 tie in regulation, Ireland held Italy scoreless through two 10-minute overtime periods. It came down to a shootout, and Ireland prevailed!
In the championship game, there was a fine mist falling on a cloudy but warm day. Finland jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a beautiful goal by Idan in the first few minutes of the game. The two teams played back and forth for the duration of the first half, but neither team scored again.
As they started the second half, Finland was back on the field looking for another goal. Early in the second half, it happened. Azriel crossed the ball from the left side to Sam, who blasted it high in the net for a 2-0 lead. The hardest assignment of the day was Yahel’s, as he shadowed Ireland’s best forcing him to take quick off-balance shots. Coach Glickman said it best. “Each of our players put in a great effort throughout the playoffs, but what really lifted us to the championship was the way the kids came together, executing the game plan and carrying out their individual assignments for the good of the team.”
In a very good November, Team Finland crossed the finish line first, and brought home the championship!
By Coach Levi Goldberg