High School Soccer-Number 1 ranked Jesuit versus number 6 ranked Granite Bay

What would you think a soccer game would be like with two of the best High School Soccer teams in the nation playing under the lights on a warm Sacramento evening?

 

Yes…the excitement factor was high and the energy was really quite remarkable. Jesuit was poised and excited with a large and very loud cheering section. Jesuit is an all boys private school that draws quite a bit of attention in the sport of soccer. They have consistently been one of the highest ranked teams in the nation for a number of years.

 

Thus, they draw some very good players from all over the area. I’ve even heard of people moving from out of state but those are rumors and I can’t substantiate them.

 

Granite Bay, on the other hand, is a public school on the outskirts of Sacramento. The area tends to be on the pricier side of life so most of the students tend to come from families with money enough to open doors that are simply not available to most children growing up.

 

In Sacramento, when you are talking about soccer, this means a great deal. Club Soccer (Youth Soccer) in Sacramento is big. In fact some say it is the largest per capita soccer area in the country. There are areas with better soccer as a rule but not for the size of the place.

 

For instance, Southern California has a number of powerhouse club teams that are highly competitive in the nation but they have 20 times the population of the Sacramento area. The San Francisco Bay area has a number of highly competitive clubs as well but they are a good 6-7 times the size of Sacramento.

 

The point is that Sacramento (for its size) is a soccer Mecca in the United States. It is no wonder that they consistently provide the High School Soccer Scene with a collection of some of the best teams in the nation.

 

Going to see Jesuit and Granite Bay play on a Friday evening therefore was an exciting event. However, in the back of my mind I wondered truly what the quality of soccer would be like.

 

If you read my post on the US national team after their loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup earlier this year, you would understand my doubt as to whether or not we were actually going to see a good soccer game or just a modified version of the game of kick ball with bigger, stronger and faster athletes.

 

The good news is I wasn’t disappointed. What I expected to be true indeed was true…at least for Jesuit. The Jesuit players were big and strong and they kicked the heck out of the ball. However, I don’t believe they ever strung even 4 passes together in a row. It was quite the disappointment for the number 1 ranked team in the nation.

 

But…on the other side Granite Bay played a superb style and game of soccer. In my opinion, they outplayed Jesuit in every facet of the game except set plays. The Jesuit boys were highly skilled and disciplined when it came to set plays and reckless and sloppy when it came to the actual game.

 

Granite Bay was beautiful in their game but because they were much smaller they had a more difficult time competing with Jesuit’s set plays. The driving force behind Granite Bay’s super fast paced passing game is a group of three brothers. We just refer to them as the Thompson brothers in these parts.

 

The Thompson brothers, Tyler, Tanner and Tommy are remarkable players. They are highly skilled and play a skilled passing game of soccer at a speed that turned Jesuit in circles.

 

Of course Granite Bay has a number of very skilled players who play at a very high pace but the Thompson brothers are the ones that standout in your mind.

 

In the end Jesuit won the game 3-2 on some very questionable calls from the center referee. I have a mind to go on a rant and explain (actually it would be complaining) all of the seemingly biased calls to aid Jesuit in their win but I am going to abstain.

 

Jesuit scored on a corner kick that was poorly defended but the score is to be applauded as it was a very good finish. Padraic McCullaugh scored on the set play from the corner on a nice half volley. They also scored on two Penalty Kicks. McCullaugh again scored for Jesuit from the PK mark as well as Steven Wright.

 

The PK calls were questionable in my opinion as well as a number of no calls going the other direction in the other Penalty box. But…I won’t talk about those.

 

On the Granite Bay side, Will Harkin scored a header from a free kick (one place where Granite Bay found Jesuit scrambling with poor defending on a set play). The other was scored by a brilliant left footed shot from Tyler Thompson about 20-25 yards out on the right side of the field.

 

All in all, it is my opinion that Granite Bay completely outplayed Jesuit. I went into the game hoping to see good soccer all the way around. I had no team to root for as I have no real connections with either school.

 

However, as the game progressed, it quickly became apparent that Granite Bay was the much better team. Their play was like a beautiful dance on the field. They moved and passed the ball in a seemingly choreographed manner that was really nice to watch. Jesuit, in many ways, could not keep up with this type of game.

 

I ended up rooting for Granite Bay because I would much rather see good soccer from a losing team then big and strong kickball from a winning team.

 

The problem with US soccer is seen in this seemingly innocuous Friday night game  between two high schools.

 

I don’t believe Jesuit earned the victory. I believe it was handed to them by referees that very much seemed to lean in the one direction. (I didn’t even tell you about the Granite Bay goal that was called back). Anyhow…I am sad that Jesuit will go on to remain as the number 1 ranked team in the nation when they hardly even play good soccer.

 

The problem is Jesuit’s style of play reflects what our society believes is good soccer. We will never get out of our Soccer inadequacies as a nation with this kind of attitude.

 

This past Friday night could have served as a pivot point. With good, fair and solid refereeing, Granite Bay wins the game and is rewarded for their brilliant style of play with a higher national ranking. Then people would start to see that playing good soccer actually does pay off in the end as it does in the rest of the world.

 

Our style of soccer (Jesuit’s style) is an abysmal failure when played on the world’s stage versus teams who play a much more fluid and possession style of game (Granite Bay’s style of soccer).

 

One of my goals as a coach is to turn the tide of what we consider good soccer. It takes discipline and patience but I believe that in the end we just might be able to show people that the beautiful game, when played in a beautiful manner, is a far superior game then the US style of kick ball that was on display from the number 1 ranked team in the nation.

 

Will Jesuit continue to win? Absolutely they will. They play a faster and better game of kick ball then anyone else. Will they come across another team like Granite Bay this year that will actually play quality soccer? I don’t know…but if they do I hope the referees stay out of the way and truly allow the better team to win the game.