2nd placed Jade Tree United and 1st placed Gunners met on Tuesday, February 6 at the Kirkwood complex in a battle of wills.
Jade Tree played without key striker Ryan Mann as rumors of a transfer to Real Madrid caused a rift between him and Manager Darren Walters, leading to Mann storming out of practice late Monday afternoon. However, Alex Rudzinski, who has been on loan all season, returned just in time for the match.
Attempting to make up for the deficit, Walters played a different formation than he has all season, with a lone striker up front.
Despite sluggish first half performances for most of the season, Jade Tree came out against the Gunners ready to fight. That spirit was evident in the attack the team undertook in the first minute of the game and Victor Alvarez sped up the right touchline, bringing the ball to the foot of the Gunner’s goal before volleying in the first of the night in less than 30 seconds.
Inspired by this effort, Jade Tree continued a long run of intense, solid play. Not only was the team a defensive juggernaut, but they were also playing balls forward and setting up several shots on goal.
In many ways, the Gunners were equal to the task, making sure that JTU were unable to convert their many chances.
Early on, Darren Walters was severely fouled from behind, yet watched the penalty go to Gunners. Visibly upset, this began the point in which JTU would begin to lose its composure in a game, which had started calmly, suddenly rounded the bend to a more physical match.
Gunners would tie the match in the 14th minute and bring JTU back into the game offensively.
Alex Milne was quick to respond with a sublime kick above the opposing team’s defense and into the back of the net to bring JTU up to 2-1.
Just minutes later, Milne was yellow carded, and Alvarez was issued a stern warning for a tackle just outside the box. While Gunners were unable to convert their kick, they did score seconds later equalizing 2-2.
The Gunners than began a run that started with a Walters being penalized for time wasting on the edge of the Jade Tree box. This resulted in Gunner’s gaining possession and thus immediately scoring their third of the night.
JTU was visibly disgusted at the refereeing when yet another decision went against them on the edge of the box and Gunners went up 2-4.
Mike Leyva, refusing to end the half without getting on the board, charged up the middle of the park, receiving the ball from Casey Gallucio and stuffing the ball into the net and bringing the score to 3-4 at the half.
Returning to the field for the second half, Jade Tree looked as if they believed that they might still be able to top the Gunners.
This was strengthened when the Gunner’s â€˜keeper came out of the net and a wild ball played off of Leyva simply went over both the defensive line and the â€˜keeper for a freakish goal that leveled the match.
But that would be the last goal for JTU for most of the half, as the Gunners began a long stretch of attacks that pummeled Jade Tree for several long minutes of play.
It all began as Jade Tree â€˜keeper Brian Olden slid under the feet of the Gunner’s forward to clear a dangerous ball and was given a Penalty for his effort. In a heroic play, Olden saved the penalty, yet the Jade Tree defense failed to properly clear the ball and were punished with yet another goal against them.
Victor Alvarez stripped the ball off the Gunner’s forward, but in the ensuing play, both Alvarez and the other player went crashing down right outside the JTU box. Alvarez, disgusted, called for a foul. Though he did get his wish, and the Gunner’s player was sent off, the Gunner’s retained possession and easily scored from their position on the restart.
Now tired and fighting an uphill battle, Jade Tree began to make mistakes that cost them dearly.
Frustration set in for Jade Tree as Gunner’s shot from 20 yards to net their third successive goal.
Refusing to let up, JTU attempted to put together an attack, though it was clear that the team was losing its shape, something that would lead to the Gunner’s being able to quickly score on turnovers.
With the score at 5-12, Jade Tree looked certain to be beaten.
However, the team was able to hang one. Alex Milne let his teammates know that the fight was not over when he signaled for his teammates to help him press the Gunner’s defense. That run of play resulted in Milne, and Jade Tree, adding one more to their goals.
The game ended 6-12, with no love lost between the two teams. With international matches happening this week, Jade Tree United will now take a break for several of its players to go to their home countries to fulfill their responsibilities.
Jade Tree’s playoff aspirations may be in danger. Though the team has a comfortable early season bed of wins, their next match will position them for the playoffs, thus it is important for Jade Tree to win this match should they still be hoping for a comfortable berth.
Jade Tree United will meet the Super Saiyons on Thursday, February 15 away at the PAL 1 field.