Saturday was an interesting day of football to be sure. To the delight of countless fans around the globe, the morning held the kickoff of the Barclay's Premier League with my Gunners taking on Sunderland in one of the early games. Saturday evening saw the close of the regular season (for several teams) in the USL PRO league as Charleston faced off against the Dayton Dutch Lions with serious playoff implications hanging in the balance.
For Arsenal, still adjusting to several new summer signings, not to mention the departure of Robin Van Persie, there were some opening day nerves, but all in all the Emirates was brimming with confidence and optimism. Both teams began the match cautiously, but once the Gunners settled in, it was all Arsenal, perhaps the final sixty minutes of play. The fiery newcomer Santi Cazorla led the charge, peppering the Black Cat's defenses and containing them within their own final third for extended periods throughout the match. Despite a whopping 23 shots and nearly 75% of possession, the boys in red were unable to find the net. The only player who might hang his head would be Olivier Giroud, who missed a high-profile go-ahead goal in the dying moments of the match. While it might not have been the desired result, there was plenty of potential in the Gunners display Saturday morning. They still have a couple games before facing any of the Premier League giants and it looks like they're going to be adding a few more to the squad before the transfer deadline is up. And even with an opening day draw against a quiet Sunderland side, its still great to be a Gooner!!!
Now on to the exploits of the Charleston Battery. Sometimes a draw can feel like a win, but other times it seems just as good as a loss. The Battery were frustrated in the goalless tie against the Dutch Lions but it was not for lack of trying. Holding possession and momentum nearly the entire match, Charleston boasted many chances on goal but somehow were unable to hit pay-dirt. Jose Cuevas had a few fine cracks at goal, narrowly missing a one-touch shot in the first half. Early in the second period Nicki Paterson earned a penalty and although his shot was spot-on, Dayton's Matt Williams guessed right and somehow managed to claw it away. In the dying seconds of the match, Cuevas looked to score the game-winner only to have a brilliant shot clang off the right post. It was spirited stuff from the Battery and although the end result was less than favorable, its good enough for the time being.
The USL PRO playoffs have been drawn and Charleston have earned the No. 3 Seed. This means we will host the Harrisburg City Islanders this Saturday evening. The winner advances to face Rochester in New York, and the semi-final winner will likely be pitted against the Lions in Orlando City.
Two games. Two draws. One hundred and eighty minutes. No goals. My wife will tell you its the most annoying thing about soccer and for the most part, sports fans will agree. But on the day, I wouldn't change those results if I could. Its pretty neat to see the promise of a new Arsenal season unfolding while witnessing the close of another chapter for the Charleston Battery all on the same day. Even though both of my teams wound up firing blanks, everything looks great from where I sit. Another fantastic year of football both beginning and ending, and I've got so many more reasons to be thankful than I did this time last year. I now have an even better job, financial freedom from repaid school loans, two amazing little girls laughing and crawling all over my living room, and a beautiful wife who is an awesome mom and is still patient with her soccer-obsessed husband. I'm thanking God for what's behind and what's ahead, and as always, thank you for reading The Beautiful Game.
(photo credits: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/santi-cazorla?before=1345307378, USLPRO facebook page)