Israel 2017

Dateline Jerusalem, 07/11/17

Israel beats USA in a very tight game at Bait Vagan #3.   USA finishes 3rd in Group A and 
will likely face Chile in the consolation semi final on Thursday.

Israel fielded a very strong team with several former Israeli national team players 
as well as professionals. Both Brazil and Israel have strengthened their teams from both 
2009 and 2013.

USA 2-1 Australia


Game Day #1 - Jerusalem 7/7/17

To start, some history on USA soccer at the Maccabiah in Israel.

First, no USA Grand Masters team had ever won their opening match at this tournament let alone score any goals ('09 0-3 GB, '13 0-1 GB).

Second, the growth of masters soccer to additional countries has been tremendous. Unlike the 2013 Maccabiah, where 6-45+ teams participated and 7-35+ teams, each age bracket added 2 countries. For the 45's, Chile and Peru are the newbies, joining Israel, Argentina, USA, Great Britain, Australia and Brazil from the 19th Maccabiah. This necessitated a switch to 2 groups of 4 teams before the medal round where each team will play 3 group stage matches, followed by consolation and medal rounds guaranteeing each country at the 45+ level five matches. Just as in the world Cup, some of the countries were seeded with Israel and Argentina, gold and silver medalists in the last Maccabiah (USA Bronze), were placed into group A and group B, respectively. The remaining teams were then randomly selected into groups after which the USA was selected (using ping pong balls!) into group A. GB was then drawn into Argentina's group followed by Chile and Peru so the USA will not meet either of the newbies nor our perennial rivals Argentina and GB until the knockout rounds.

So the USA schedule is Australia (Fri 7/7), Brazil (Sun 7/9) and the hosts Israel (Tue 7/11) with the need to finish in the top two to have any hope for a medal.

So, connecting the pieces, the US had never won nor scored a goal in the opening game, but now needs to win game one to have any realistic chance of advancing to the medal rounds. This quick tournament doesn't allow you to feel your way into it and especially, knowing that there is a super strong Israel team waiting for the US on Tuesday, taking care of business by beating Australia and Brazil and then thinking ahead to the big guns of Israel, Argentina or GB.

In these five match tournaments it's not uncommon to lose a player or two to injury or suspension but the US had the disadvantage of losing two likely central midfielders, as returnee Joel Biran ('13') of Philadelphia and newcomer David Haas of NYC were each sidelined with minor leg injuries picked up prior to leaving the States. We expect each to return but it put heavy pressure on midfielders Stephan Feldgoise and Stefan Greenberg, who were going to have to carry the bulk of the load in the center of the park. Fortunately, the brutal heat and humidity of the last week abated, and it was a completely reasonable 80 degrees at kick off with a southerly breeze meant the team defending the north goal would have some nice natural air conditioning here in the desert.

So we lined up at kickoff in a 4 4 2 diamond with formation and lineup shown here:
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The 6 substitute were used generally as Randall Winn ('13 35's) and David Warren ('13) at outside backs, Matthew Sills ('13 35's) and Marc Essenfeld as strikers, and John Levene ('13) and Mark Wisnevitz ('09, '13) as wings. Given our fitness and deep bench, Coach Bodenstein (multiple Maccabian) had implored us to press early and press often against the Australian side, but he reminded us in the pregame talk that we had to press as a team. If one or two men pressed in isolation, we would inevitably leave gaps for the Australians to exploit.

We lost the toss and Australia chose the first half headwind and we started with the ball. Unlike the opener four years ago, there were no first minute jitters, and the US started spraying the ball around and dominated the early possession. Notably, Brett Epstein danced (not quite the same as a DKNY move) past a number of Australians on the near sideline, and connected with Dan Deresh and Ian Grusd ('13) early to get the ball into great positions. Our attack sputtered a bit in the final third but the early signs were good.

When Australia did win possession the USA was all over them and the press, when executed as Coach Bodenstein had asked, worked to perfection. The Australian backs couldn't handle the heat and kicked ball after ball out of bounds or back to a blue shirted  American. But no real early chances for the US were created.

However, in minute 15, we saw what often happens in soccer when the US pressed but an missed an early assignment. The dominoes fell and Australia was able to ping the ball in 3 passes from the back line to their attacking mid, traveling 65 yards in a few seconds. The attacking mid fielder spotted his left wing racing in and played a through ball, but just a bit too heavy. Our back didn't get there but US Goalkeeper Lee Popper did, just before the wing. The ball rolled away before the winger could get to it but the winger caught Lee Popper's leg after the ball had passed. The Shofet (referee) somehow didn't hesitate and pointed to the spot. Massively against the run of play, and in a game the US knew we had to win. Australia converted the PK and the US went down 0-1.

No one panicked as the game plan was mostly working. Now, with more urgency our attacking game came alive. Drew Misher ('09 35's) was connecting with Ian Grusd ('13) and Michael Weiss on the right. Andy Reichgut connected with Brett Epstein and Dan Deresh on the left. Deresh was in and was hacked down! Surely after such a soft penalty at the other end the shofet would level things up, but he waved the loud appeals away. Never mind. Dan Deresh was played in again, and just between the 6yd box and penalty spot, with his back to the goal, he was lining up an overhead bicycle kick when he was slammed to the carpet a second time. Now the loud whistle came and the US had the chance to equalize. Coach Bodenstein, who had been taking copious notes in penalty practice conferred with Asst Coach Bernstein ('09, '13) asked Misher to step up. And what a penalty he coolly converted! Off the inside of the left post and caromed to tie the game at 1-1 and the half came to an end.

The US came out fired up for the second stanza and now the offense was clicking. Brett Epstein and Stefan Greenberg both fired in goal stretching the Australian goalkeeper each time. The US was now all over them. Lee Popper was tested a couple of times on tough crosses into our box but he read the game and the ball well, and had very sure hands today, catching a couple just on the line.

Open substitions allow teams to show opponents a couple of different "looks" and one brilliant move from coaches Alan and Gazza today were giving minutes up top to Matthew Sills ('13 35's) from Oakland. Most of us had not seen Matt play striker before, but he provided an incredible burst of energy off the bench when he came on each half, and he used his strong defensive skills well in the press, winning balls and releasing teammates. Matt Sills quickly found space beyond the Australian back line and looked like he was in on goal. He had Marc Essenfeld with him, and perhaps a bit too unselfishly, squared the ball.  The Australian goalkeeper closed down the angle, and the resulting shot went just wide of the left post. The US badly needed that second goal and time was running out. But there was Matt Sills again, dribbling into the 18, and hacked again! Dan Deresh noted at halftime that the Australian backs were merciless in their fouling, and we debated whether the Shofet would have the guts to call a second penalty. Well, when Matt Sills was hacked, we got our answer. Penalty 2!  With Drew Misher on the Sideline, the coaches conferred again (using the magic eight ball the saved from the Bar Mitzvah gifts) selected Stefan Greenberg to get the US a go ahead goal. Greenberg, calmly assumed the duty. He waited for the keeper to show his hand, and then coolly dispatched the ball in the opposite direction.   The vital go ahead goal was notched with about 15 min to play! It felt more like 40 years of desert wandering as the clock ticked down.

This is when the demons in your head come out. For the 2013 returnees, it was the memory of so many set piece goals conceded, including another one today. For the bigger Chile 2015 contingent, it was the late equalizers arch rivals GB and Argentina scored and we had to exorcise these demons by seeing out this game!

And it was the usual script for these situations. The desperate men in yellow and green, throwing caution to the wind and now we had three, no, four forwards to defend. And the men in blue, all in but tiring, a back line that clearly had not ever played as a unit before, cleared everything, and allowed no shots to get through. The shofet whistled three times and we had the historic opening win. Coach Bodenstein had repeated Bruce Arena's adage in the locker room that winning soccer is a game of FIRSTS.

Connect your first pass
Win your first tackle
Earn the first corner
Score the first goal
Win your first game.

We didn't score the opener today, but we did all the rest and most importantly we sit atop group A and have some unfinished business with the Brazilians on Sunday 7/9/17 at 4:00pm IST, Bayit Vagan field #2 in Jerusalem.

Today's report is courtesy of David Warren

Dateline Israel - July 7th 2017

USA defeats Australia 2-1 in penalty fest. All 3 goals scored via PK with Misher and Greenberg netting for US after going down 0-1 in the first half. (HT 1-1)

Details to follow later today.

More to Life than Soccer


On behalf of all of MaccabiUSA GrandMasters Alumni and the 2017 MaccabiUSA Grand Masters team, we want to share the following tribute with you regarding the recent passing  of your father. As one of our family, we all share your grief and hope this will ease your own in the process.

Sending our love to you Ellen and the kids and the extended Hochberger family.

If you would please send me you fathers name, I will add him to the memorial section of our blog where he will be inscribed in our "blog" of life.

MaccabiaUSA GrandMasters Soccer

Thursday, July 6, 2017

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