2011 Summer Cup Results - Taichung, Taiwan

Well, it didn't all go the way we wanted it to, but it was still a truly fun, memorable weekend of football and time together as a team. Despite narrowly missing out on some new Compass hardware, I honestly thought it was one of the best Cup weekends in a while--the matches, the in-betweens and the post-tourney socializing (more on that below).

On Saturday, Compass got off to a good start by beating Taipei Red Lions decisively 2-0. Cesar finished nicely after a shot by Ben B. ricocheted out to the side, and Seb--believe it or not--got himself a perfectly acceptable PK. We were able to then top our very competitive group with a 0-0 tie against Tainan Phoenix. However, our last Saturday match--a must-win to make it into the Cup round--didn't go as well, as we conceded a painful late-game goal to our regular nemesis, the Kaohsiung Pacers.

A good number of Compass players put this disapointing end to Saturday's matches behind them with an evening's worth of socializing on the scenic outdoor balcony at FM Bar & Grill, also helping Ben B. celebrate his birthday.

Sunday saw us into the Plate competition and a whole new group that included two very different opponents--the Taichung Scunners and Taipei Animals. With a slightly-revised team formation (suggested by Rob and Eugene) that put Arnaud in stopper/play-maker position between defense and midfield lines, Compass short-passed and burned its way through a lively but less-skilled Scunners side to score 4 goals in 30 minutes--2 from Arnaud, 1 from Chris and 1 by Rob (*again, please forgive/correct me here if this is wrong). This goal tally would later prove very critical to the team.

Our next match against the Animals was a very different, much more competitive ball game, with Compass striking first with a nice finishing goal by Cesar off a free kick. However, unrelenting pressure by a determined and skilled opponent saw that lead slip to a 1-1 tie fairly late in the match.

This left Compass and Animals with tied group records--with the an advance into the Plate final to be determined by whether or not Animals could top Compass' earlier 4-0 destruction of Scunners. The odds certainly looked stacked against us, as the Scunners appeared to have already surrendered to their fate and were seen consuming significant amounts of beer on the sidelines before their last game. What followed was one of the highpoints of the tourney: The Compass team loudly rooting for the Scunners and raucously cheering every out-ball, delay and movement up the pitch, however small, towards the Animals direction. After some initial Scunners heroics, all seemed lost as the Animals scored once, twice and then, in quick succession, their third and fourth goals in the first 15 minutes. At this point, just when all seemed lost, a Scunner forward got a lucky break, broke past the defense and lobbed a shot in and over the Animals' keeper. I never thought I'd see a Scunners goal send the Compass team screaming ecstatically onto the pitch in celebration, but that's what happened. A slightly-reinvigorated Scunners then managed to hold off heavy pressure from the increasingly desperate Animals to end the game 4-1, sending us to the Plate final.

For better or worse, our final opponents were the Tubbies. Compass--now down to 13 players--fought a fairly-even back-and-forth 30 minutes with their cross-town rivals. In the final five minutes, a defensive scramble to contain a Tubbies drive led to a foul call as Ben B. was defending against "Dutch" Dan, who was his usual theatrical self at the top of box, and lined up to take the resulting PK. A nice diving save to the right by Pete, however, preserved Compass from what have probably been a 0-1 regular time defeat and led to a 0-0 draw. This sent the final decision to the PK mark where Arnaud scored first but sadly Ben B. and Rob didn't, leaving us short 1-3. The Tubbies didn't celebrate too heatedly, though, as both sides seemed to acknowledge the even match. They even wanted a few photos with us afterwards; as Sal or someone remarked, "It's so rare that we beat Compass that we have to get a picture." On the other pitch, Tainan Phoenix beat the drumming/singing/dancing Ghanians of the Taipei Black Stars 3-1 to take the Cup.

Another highlight of the weekend--albeit a slightly sad one--was completely enjoyable and hilarious post-tourney farewell evening with Pete and Ben B. at Pete's favorite sidewalk Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall. This included big platefuls of shrimp, battered-fried soft-shelled crab, steamed veggies, noodles and other delicacies and copious amounts of beer. Highlights included Rob's British slang lessons, Pete's Lithuanian football riot account, and using Arno's iPhone to watch Taiwanese national TV news coverage of Ben O. getting very publicly nailed in the face with a baseball at a game a few days ago. Some photos (will send separately) show the damage that about 8-10 Compass players can do (with a tiny bit of help from wives/girlfriends) in one evening--I counted about 25-26 empty large Taiwan Beer bottles and 1-2 Jim Beam empties. The Wed. night 7-11 lads don't even come close! :)

That's it for my 2011 Taichung Summer Cup report. Again, I had an amazing time with you all and am more happy than ever to be part of this team and fine bunch of people. We need to do this more often!