(L-R) Manuel Pena, Dimitri Lamalare, Dan Harrison, Chris Clarke, Rob Dickson, Eashan Rooban, Pablo Kay, Ed McKay, Reihart Kreindle, Henry Vera, Kenny Cheung, Nick Day, Matt Kefee
Nov 19 v US Army (Seoul tour)
It was a real one-off experience thanks to H’s ever-impressive pan-Asian football contacts as we got the opportunity to take on the US Army on their base in the middle of the city as part of our Seoul tour. With a compact squad of 13 including Eash in goal, Pabs, Dan, Chopps, Edd, Dimitri, H, Manny, Rainy, Nick Day, Rob Dickson, Matt Keefe and King Kenny, we headed for the base just a little bit hungover and not quite sure what to expect. Amazingly there were no casualties from the night before, although we almost lost Rainy on the subway while he tried to get a girl’s number before the door closed, but he just about escaped with all his limbs intact plus the number. Legend.
The security at the base was less strict than we had been led to believe, as some old Korean geezer in US Army fatigues checked about 5 passports before getting bored and letting us all in. Inside, it looked more like a 1950s-era US town than an army base, complete with its own high school, cinema and fast-food restaurants. There were tears of nostalgia in Dan’s eyes as he said ‘this looks like where I lost my virginity’ (or maybe he said ‘grew up’, I can’t remember) and our eardrums were all just really glad Terry wasn’t on this tour.
A pretty even first half saw lots of chances for both sides, with Eash proving a revelation in goal in his first game back from a nasty ACL injury while a smattering of Sunday Spartans regulars added a bit of extra quality to the Sohos lineup. Rob Dickson, H and Manny bossed the midfield from the get go, and despite losing birthday boy Dimitri early on to a calf injury, we looked by far the most likely team to score – right up until we got caught out with a relatively simple ball through the middle that the oppo striker slotted home. 1-0 to the U-S-A.
The rest of the half was all Sohos as we created chance after chance but were denied by a combination of spectacular goalkeeping, poor finishing and slapstick comedy moments – Rainy falling over the ball on the oppo goal line while simultaneously clearing it was a particular highlight. Eventually, however, we made our pressure count as Matt Keefe got free in the box and finished in style. 1-1.
The second half started in much the same vein, and after a few more chances it was soon 2-1, Matty getting his second with another controlled finish after good work from Manny, Nick and Rainy. He wasn’t the only Spartan to score a double that day, but that’s another story…
Just when it looked like we were cruising to victory and ready to add to our tally, a whole bunch of US re-enforcements arrived and turned the game on its head. Bolstered by 3 big African lads who had pace and physical presence to burn, we suddenly found ourselves on the back foot, and defending resolutely to preserve our advantage. After a couple of great stops from Eash and a header off the line from Pabs, the equalizer finally came when one of the US subs managed to beat Henry in the air (now that’s something you don’t hear very often!) and bullet a cracking header into the top corner, grazing the bar on the way in. From here, we had to hang on, and only some more good defending kept the oppo from getting the winner. Full-time: 2-2.
A draw probably a fair result, but on to penalties we went. Matty, Dickson and H all stuck theirs away, but a save from Pab’s kick and Nick hitting the post saw the US team clinch victory – at least they gave us a crate of beer to ease the pain.
All in all, a fun game in a memorable setting, and a cracking tour all round. A little bit of history made too as the first Spartans team to tour South Korea. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be back.
Final score: 2-2 (pens 4-3)
Scorer: Matt Keefe (2)