Soccer: Defeat causes defensive changes

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If there's one asset the New Richmond boys soccer team doesn't have an abundance of this season, it's team speed.

Opponents have begun to take advantage of the team's shortage of speed. It became a fact the coaches couldn't ignore anymore when Amery defeated the Tigers 4-2 last Thursday in a game that could decide the Middle Border Conference championship.

Amery's goals were largely the result of isolating their two speedy forwards against Tigers in New Richmond's flat-back defense. That caused the Tigers to install a defense with a stopper and sweeper at the back of the defense, which was used in Saturday's game at Hudson. The Tigers performed much better Saturday, losing 3-2 to the high-powered Raiders.

Tiger coach Darian Blattner said opponents see other teams have success against the Tiger defense and they were seeing similar approaches each game in attacking the defense.

"We're not as quick as we have been on the edges in the past and we had to address that," Blattner said.

The Tigers and Amery were tied 1-1 at halftime. The Tiger goal came on a corner kick by Jack Stuedemann that was deflected into the goal off an Amery player.

Amery scored early in the second half, but the Tigers tied the game in the 59th minute. The ball bounded out to the 25-yard mark, where Nick Cheslock blasted a shot. The shot deflected off an Amery player, just slightly changing its elevation. It eluded the Amery keeper and went in under the crossbar.

In the next few minutes, Amery was able to use its speed to generate the go-ahead goal. From there, the Warriors jammed the middle of the field with defenders, making it impossible for the Tigers to mount an attack.

"What a clunker," Blattner said of the loss. "Out of our 14 games, I thought there were two we didn't play well and they were both against Amery."

That led to the sweeper-stopper adaptation. Cheslock will be used as the sweeper and Mason Marek as the stopper. Blattner said the decision on which defense to use will be made on a game-by-game basis.

The Tigers fought back from a 2-0 deficit to tie Hudson on Saturday. Tyler Blattner scored the first goal in the 52nd minute, scooting a shot past the reach of the Hudson keeper just inside the post. The Tigers tied the game in the 71st minute when AJ Johnson scored off a penalty kick. Hudson scored the game-winner off a free kick in the 77th minute.

Last week began with the Tigers playing at Spooner last Tuesday, winning 11-1. Marek and Blattner each scored three goals, with Johnson scoring twice. Stuedemann, Jose Rapalo and Steven Arendt each scored once.

This will be another busy stretch for the Tigers. They host Barron on Thursday and St. Paul Academy on Friday. They will play two games in a tournament at Eau Claire North on Saturday, before returning home to face Baldwin-Woodville next Tuesday.