Going into the Flamborough Fusion U13 home opener last night, their head coach was practically giddy.
Adam Mazzaferro, whose team have gotten off to a rough 0-2 start, had the difficult task of preparing his boys for Saltfleet. The perennial soccer power at the rep level have been off to an unusually slow start in league play, and Mazzaferro has had their names circled on his schedule since the fixtures were announced.
All week, ‘Coach Adam’ stressed the importance of this game to his kids, both as a measuring stick for their own talent level and as an opportunity to get back to winning ways. It was a message that was not lost on the players.
Seth Deweerd, who plays left back for the Fusion, scoffed at the idea that the game was done before it even began.
“This team’s tough, we know that…but we just got to hussle, and pop some in the net.” Deweerd said.
Deweerd was sincere and confident pre-game that his team could pull out three points in the match.
“…Obviously a tie would be a good point for us…but we are always looking to win.”
Very rarely is the push for a moral victory a sincere one, but last night, the Fusion made one of the more compelling arguments for such a victory. Outmuscled, out grown, and out run, the Fusion struggled to keep up with their much taller adversaries. Despite this, the team still managed to jump out to a one-nill lead in the first half.
Sadly, it was a tale of two halves for the Fusion. In the second Saltfleet bombarded the Fusion net with shot after shot, eventually scoring three unanswered on-route to a 3-1 final score that was a disappointment to the home squad.
Adding to the frustration was the seemingly questionable offside calls, which stopped Fusion breaks five separate times in the second half, when the team desperately needed some offence.
“We did well getting the ball up all game…” said Connor Hanigan, a forward for the Fusion. “Some of the offsides were just unlucky…sometimes the refs didn’t see us correctly.”
Still, the Fusion had their Stony Creek counterparts on the ropes early, and for coach Mazzaferro, this was clearly the teams best performance.
“I’m so proud of you guys.” Mazzaferro could be heard saying post game.
For the coach, it was the play of his back line, specifically his goalie who garnered the most praise.
“ Xander (Stokes) was the player of the game.” Mazzaferro said proudly after the game. “He kept us in it.”
Mazzaferro felt that his team learned a lot about themselves throughout the match and felt they more than lived up to his expectations.
I thought our boys did a good job all game. We stopped everything in the first…we were somewhat lucky. Everything we stopped in the first went in in the second.
But after a game like last night, ‘Coach Adam’ feels it’s more about the team than the result.
“Look at these guys…. they’re all having fun.” He said. “This is why we do it. We have guys here tonight who can’t even play this year…they just came out to support the team. We’re growing.”
Despite the good feelings that have come from this game, the Fusion will have to quickly put it behind them. Their first cup game is on Monday the 11th, and they now find themselves in an unfortunate hole in league play, with no points to show for three hard fought games.
Coach Mazzaferro predicted a mid-table finish at the start of the year, a prediction that is seemingly becoming harder to achieve after each loss. Still, it is the coaches final word in our post-game interview that ring the truest.
At the U13 level, all these games are a growing experience. Entire teams will win games just because their squad has hit more growth spurts then their opponent. Mazzaferro knows this, and has instead decided to focus on promoting hard work and team comradery. This squad is young, but the lessons learned now will hopefully be taken up the age groups, until the Fusion find themselves the best team in the league.
“My hope is at the U16 or U17 level…we win the league.” Mazzaferro said to me at the beginning of the season. “That these kids, four or five years from now, feel they can beat anybody.”
A lofty goal…but an achievable one.
This is Part two of my interview with coach Mazzaferro.
For my full interview with coach Mazzaferro on the upcoming year and his expectations, please listen to my podcast on thefanlife.com .
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Alex Taylor is a graduate of McMaster University, with degrees in Anthropology and History, and a minor in classics. Alex currently attends Sheridan College, where he is working on a Journalism diploma.
Alex is also a novel writer, having written a manuscript, and he is currently working on another (fiction)
Alex Taylor writes more frequently on his website, TheFanLife.net
Alex has also written a published paper while attending McMaster University: an academic journal piece on the depictions of aging in the media.
And avid sports fan, Alex Taylor will be starting a podcast soon (titled thefanlife. It will be on Soundcloud).