Since 1863, soccer’s best minds have debated one question: is it better to lose pretty or win ugly? To nuance that question, soccer has become a battle of the extremes. In the modern game, the question can be whittled down to possessing the ball, which is defending by attacking and easy on the eye, or ceding possession to play defense, so that you can score on the break. Possession is the taste of the decade, but it can be pointless without a purpose.
BC men’s soccer’s coaching staff wants the ball to be circulated throughout its versatile attack, which has pace, finesse, and a lot of tricks in its the bag. The attack only needs three or four passes between it to leave a defense naked, as opposed to seven or eight passes in the build up to wear down a defense. BC’s front three includes Zeiko Lewis, who has lots of skill and an eye for the killer ball, Isaac Normesinu, who has the pace to split a back line wide open, and Nana Boateng, who is unpredictable. Each player in the trio has a lot of technical ability, and they are starting to click up front, after struggling to get a vibe going in the team’s first three games. On Sunday afternoon, they thrived in BC’s 3-0 win over the University of Rhode Island.
“We’re starting to open up now, and we’re starting to really show our true colors in attack,” said associate head coach John Murphy. “With any talented group, it’s about getting cohesion, so we’re in the process of getting cohesion and as you’re seeing that, you’re really seeing some nice stuff. I thought today we moved the ball very, very well. We created some great chances.”
Link up play in the first 15 minutes was swift. Normesinu checked for the ball and found space between the lines of URI’s midfield and back four. He found Lewis, who was playing in the hole, and the two combined with quick wall passes between a compact Rhode Island defense. The best move came on 14 minutes when Lewis and Normesinu shredded through the middle and found Cole DeNormandie on the left, though the senior pulled his shot wide of the near post.
After a few substitutions, the game settled down before Normesinu broke the deadlock on 37 minutes with a curled blast from 20 yards.
The Eagles looked to work the wide areas as the game went on and began to retain the ball more and more. Circulating the ball became the key, though it was not done at a direct pace. Instead, BC dictated the tempo of the match, which fell into a pattern in which BC possessed and the Rams sat back looking to use their danger-men on the break.
“All they have to do is hit you once and then the game changes,” Murphy said. That almost happened immediately after halftime, when URI broke down the left and the Eagles’ midfield failed to track the run of Carlo Davids. The URI freshman had Alex Kapp at his mercy, but the Eagles’ goalkeeper leaped to his right to tip the ball off the post, which kept the team’s 1-0 advantage in tact. A Davids goal could have changed the game’s momentum, but BC reestablished the norm.
“I think the fact that we worked and use the ball so well kind of demoralized them a little bit,” Murphy said. “That’s what set up the last two goals.”
One of the reasons why Kelly has changed to the diamond midfield this season is to make use of his versatile personnel, one of whom is Boateng. His work rate is extremely high, but the depth of the team has placed him out of the starting XI. There is no doubt that he has talent though, and he can find space in the box and link up well with his teammates. Talented attackers want to play with smart players, with just as much skill, who can find them for goals.
“Whenever you play with them you have to understand them,” Boateng said. “It’s like all the stuff you do in practice and all the stuff is helping out, because the coach is giving us new tactics and we’re working hard.”
The understanding between the three was lethal when Normesinu sprinted down the right and a ball from Lewis put the Rams’ back line at sixes and seven. Normesinu then looked for a cross, and drove the ball to Boateng for the easy finish to make it 2-0, three minutes from time. It was a deadly attack that broke Fordham’s spirit and opened the way for Lewis to strike from the top of box two minutes later.
When Boateng, Lewis, and Normesinu click together, they can be as dangerous as they as any trio in college soccer, though they will have to be lethal for the Eagles to have success, especially when they have so much possession.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff