Saturday, July 13, 2013

Season 31 Review

Season 31 was about one thing for the Greensboro FC Vipers: Bouncing Back.
After a 17-7-14 season, the worst finish in 17 years, the young Vipers squad needed to show that they had hit rock bottom and were ready to right the ship.
Their 21-9-8 finish proved that they were indeed steering in the right direction.
There were ups (beating two top six clubs in the final four games).
And downs (losing to two bottom tier clubs in the middle of the season).
But as a whole, this season was a step in the right direction.
A step that Greensboro owner Chris Fields hopes is just the second stride on a long walk to the top.
Basically, Fields set out a 10 year plan after the club's championship in season 27. Fields knew that his club had got the most it possibly could out of a strong generation of players. The club had won three championships in a five year period and was simply out of gas.
After that championship, Fields and management came together to design a plan of replacing older retiring players with young talent.
The club and Fields had a strict policy of allowing tenured players to retire on their own terms. Fields believes in building a family atmosphere. That belief is why Fields shows such ardent loyalty to the Viper veterans.
With that in mind, Field and his team of management planned a longterm plan that allowed the Vipers first generation of championship players to retire on their own terms, while still rebuilding the roster relatively quickly and efficiently. 
In the seasons following the third championship, the club quickly showed that time had caught up to it. The team dropped to 5th in season 28 and 6th in season 29.
After the 6th place finish, in the third season of the ten year plan, the roster was nearly halfway turned over to the new generation.
The combination of youth and age showed. The clubs 9th place finish in season 30 was the bottom of the bottom.
But during the offseason, Fields and co. remained true to their plan. They brought in a bevy of young and experienced players to help restock the roster, such as Dunlang Moiles and Benjamin Kevin. The additional experience and talent showed. 
You could say it started with Moiles in the defense.
The 18 year old came into Greensboro raw and talented. He went through struggles and made youthful mistakes. His talent was often hidden by his mental mistakes. But as the season progressed, the young defender showed progress. He credits that progress to tutoring by a legendary defense, anchored by AaronJames Sequeba and  Stanfield Takemoto. Sequeba and Takemoto took Moiles under their wing and taught the young defender the ins and outs of defending at the highest level. By the end of the year, Moiles' talent far outshined his mental youthfulness. Moiles used his 6'1 frame and skill on the ball to get forward and become a threat on the offense end, especially in the air. Moiles finished with 8 goals, more than Takemoto has ever netted and 3 more than Sequeba netted in his inaugural campaign. The tutoring also payed off on the defensive end. Moiles, who showed mental lapses and collected 3 yellow cards in the beginning of the season, finished with only 41 fouls and was never sent off, something he credits to Sequeba, who hasn't picked up a card in his professional career.
If Moiles started the Greensboro rebound, veteran first year Viper Benjamin Kevin certainly finished it, literally and figuratively. After playing 12 years for his hometown club, Irish FC, the 31 year old striker was put on the transfer block because of several lackluster seasons. Greensboro management unanimously approved a move for Kevin after several young players performed underwhelmingly. The Irish juggernauts accepted the transfer and Kevin was Greensboro bound. In his first year, Kevin immediately stepped into a leadership and starring role on the team. Kevin knew the Greensboro board believed in him and knew he was going to get a chance to be the featured striker day in and day out. "Ben brought confidence and veteran leadership to our team. As soon as we played with Ben, we knew he could be a go to striker. That really relieved a lot of pressure on the defense. We had an outlet that could hold the ball, make things happen, and obviously put the ball in the back of the net," said Sequeba. Kevin finished the season with 36 goals in 32 games, good enough for 3rd in the league.
Finally, the new talent at defense and striker needed someone to bridge the gap. That gap was filled by three 19 year old midfielders. Carleton Lorigan, Ivor McGeough and most importantly, Bailey Aspenlind provided energy, enthusiasm and creativity between the boxes. The trio, two of them defensive minded, were fierce competitors that gave the team a much needed jolt when the older defenders and strikers grew tired. "Their energy is infectious," said keeper Kylan Hartman, "you can just tell everyone's effort gets better when those guys are working their tails off box to box."
As a whole, the units came together very nicely. Veterans like Benjamin and Sequeba led the group of youngsters to both wins and progression. Progression, really the key to this year's team, will again be a focus for the Vipers next year. If they are going to improve on their finish, the young talent can't rest on their laurels.
While this season can easily be deemed a big success, only if the young players continue to improve will Fields' longterm plan come to fruition.

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