vs FC Belgium

Champions Division: Fixture 2 – ML United vs FC Belgium

Starting XI: Ivarov; Valeny, Libermann, Jaric; Stein, Dodo, Espimas, Ximelez, Minanda; Hamsun, Ordaz.

Next up was FC Belgium. What a pompous bunch of assholes, I thought; a team named after a goddamn country. What would people think if we used “Parts Unknown FC” as our club’s nomenclature? It’d only throw gasoline to the fire of our ferocious rivalry between both PES and WE United, and trust me, we don’t need any…

Playing on a 5-3-2 formation, this would surely be another difficult side to crack; plus, they have a lot of tall, strong and at times also fast individuals, which is never good news for us given our only physically striking player is Libermann.

Castolo was no more; enter Hamsun. I got tired of the Brazilian. Hamsun was nevertheless a much better fit for this match, given we were up against a very strong trio of CBs.


 

Rightaway, I see this won’t be anything like the previous fixture. Even though we got two shots before they even tried one, both of them inoffensive, Belgium took control of the game early on and asphyxiated us at the back. Jaric, Valeny and Libermann were grasping for some understanding of the hurricane that was sweeping the defense, always failing to catch up. Unsurprisingly, Belgium had many shots on goal and quite a few clear-cut chances; fortunately, they looked uninspired for they missed them all.

That was up until the 44th minute, when a deflection of a shot saved by Ivarov hits Jaric’s leg and…it’s an own-goal. 0-1.

Before the goal, Hamsun gets injured. Castolo laughs on the bench. “Now you’ll play me, huh coach?” he says, with a mischievous smile. No way I’d play him though. At halftime, after understanding how hurt Hamsun really was, Huylens – the legendary Oranges – replaces the Norwegian on the pitch. I didn’t even ponder whether he was a sound choice – I just didn’t want to play Castolo.


Castolo put something in Hamsun's drink before the match, I just know it.

 

The second half brought nothing new. If anything, FC Belgium kept going at it ever more intensely, and everyone could see that the 0-2 was around the corner. After four shots in ten minutes, they do score. Jaric – once again – fails to properly header the ball and unwittingly leaves it at Emselzone’s feet, who scores the 0-2 (67′).

I had had enough. Right after the goal, I sub off Jaric for Fouque, Stein joins Libermann and Valeny in the back, and Dodo remains as the only DMF, backing up a duo of AMFs comprised of Minanda and Fouque. We desperately needed to upgrade our offense, as the midfield wasn’t working at all – but then again, the same could be said for our entire starting-11.

Time for a Hail-Mary. The play restarts, and everyone but Dodo joins the offense. Dodo kicks it long, kind of like a NFL quarterback delivering a killer pass, Valeny fails to header it but the deflection ends up in front of Libermann, who dives in and headers it for the 1-2 (68′). The Hail-Mary is our Holy Grail.


Libermann doing what ML United's strikers can't...

The Hail-Mary formation is indeed incredibly risky.

This is how it looks, right after Ivarov passes the ball to Dodo.

Look at the radar. Everyone and their mother is ready for a long ball played by The Dodo. What I usually do is kick it mercilessly and aimlessly with a touch of the Square button, and then fight for the ball in the air. That’s it. The problem is, if a ML United player doesn’t win the aerial duel, only Dodo and typically Jaric are left behind to deal with the counterattack – plus Ximelez as the DMF. It’s the All-in of football.


 

Back to the game. Could Libermann’s goal be the beginning of a dramatic recuperation?

Nope. FC Belgium ignored us and kept pounding our defense. They didn’t score, but neither did we, for we weren’t even able to have more than a miserable couple of (horrible) attempts on target after Libermann’s goal. Ten minutes before the end I took off a really tired Minanda for…Castolo, and switched from our 3-5-2 with two AMFs for a 3-4-3 with Castolo as a SS supporting Ordaz and Huylens. But tonight, nothing worked, and I tried everything.

A long road lies ahead of us.

ML United 1-2 FC Belgium (68′ Libermann; Jaric OG 44′, Emselzone 67′)

MoM: Espimas. An obvious choice, for he was literally the only player who wasn’t total and utter shite out there. Eleven Espimas would’ve won this match, I can tell you that: he was energetic, fearful, and competent on both sides of the pitch – basically, he looked like a pro. But when your Right Wingback is your most powerful offensive weapon, something’s just not right…

arrow-up-5-xxl Hail-Mary strikes again. It has been our savior so far, masking our obvious offensive problems. Because of it, Libermann and Valeny are our only goal scorers so far…

down-circular-xxl Competitiveness. FC Belgium was just too much to handle for anyone not named Espimas. Defensively, offensively, physically: we weren’t at all ready for this challenge.

down-circular-xxl Defense. They were so bad they looked drunk. Jaric was particularly dreadful, with his participation on both of Belgium’s goals. Ceciu and Stremer say hi…

down-circular-xxl Offense. Hamsun brought nothing new to the table while he was operational, neither did Huylens. Who shall I play as Ordaz’s partner up front?

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vs. Caopolo

Champions Division: Fixture 1 – ML United vs Caopolo

Starting XI: Ivarov; Valeny, Libermann, Jaric; Stein, Dodo, Espimas, Ximelez, Minanda; Castolo, Ordaz.


Didn't I tell you that Highbury still existed?

This is it. The Champions Division 2 begins, and does so with a rather diverse encounter: a team from Parts Unknown faces Caopolo, from Brazil.

The scouting report on Caopolo brought to my attention that this team also played with a kind of 3-5-2 formation, the same as ML United’s. Supposedly, their strength lies up front; such an attacking proficiency shouldn’t be a surprise given even their keeper takes free kicks and penalties! However, despite having a solid DMF partnership, their back-3 is vulnerable, even if they’re all very physically intimidating.

Though our pre-season tour revealed a few improbable talents such as Zamenhof, I went with what should be the typical starting-11 for this team. That means Castolo got to start, despite his horrible pre-season exhibitions.


 

The first minutes of the match were what you’d expect out of an inaugural game of the season. Both teams were losing possession quite easily, never managing to threaten the opposition’s defense, but giving a lot of work to both midfields; Stein, Dodo and even Minanda were always quite busy out there defensively.

20 minutes in an neither side has had a single shot! Rojeio, the set-piece-taker goalkeeper of Caopolo, takes the reigns and gives Ivarov a chance to shine, after a neatly-taken free kick. Ivarov clears it for a corner, and after it is taken, Demilo scores a header, 0-1 (22′). Libermann thought he’d win the aerial battle, he never saw the opponent coming.

ML United’s response was brutal. I switch to the Hail-Mary formation right after the goal, managed to get the ball to Ximelez, he crosses it and …could it find Ordaz? Perhaps Castolo? Minanda? It’s…Valeny, the CB who headers it beautifully, 1-1 (24′)! It didn’t take long for the Hail-Mary to have a powerful effect on my ML save.


Valeny up there on cloud nine, scoring goals.

Despite these frenetic couple of minutes in which two goals were scored for each side, nothing of interest happened before halftime.

On the first minute of the 2nd half, Jaric nearly scored a free kick, but Rojeio proved he knows also how to save those…

The incessant midfield battle kept going on in the meanwhile; and if Dodo and Stein love this particular kind of game, this was draining Minanda’s energy dramatically. The Portuguese was one of our most influential players out there, the little our offense was producing was due to his magnificent influence. What do I do? Do I sub him for Fouque, and risk losing our offensive edge? Or do I take the more defensive approach and throw in Iouga to secure the midfield once and for all – given a 1-1 result wouldn’t really be that bad of an outcome for us?

I decided to…not do anything.

I might’ve been wrong about that. Though we kept having our chances here and there, but always failing to score, the more time passed, the less we could hold off Caopolo as we had been doing for the whole match. They begin to hoard all the ball possession and dangerously approach our box more often. ML United as a whole were out of gas, showing how much work we have to do if we want to keep up with actual professional football clubs on the pitch for 90 minutes.

I took off Castolo (yet another disappointing performance…) for Hamsun in order for us to be able to play a more direct brand of football and give our midfield some rest when on offense; and five minutes before the final whistle, Fouque comes in for Minanda. Thanks to our organized and solid our defense was, we managed to defend an eager but uninspired Caopolo and ended up grabbing a draw. Not bad.

ML United 1-1 Caopolo (24′ Valeny; 22′ Demilo)

MoM: Valeny. He had already shown how important he can be defensively, but this time, Valeny combined a flawless defensive exhibition with a fantastic goal of his own. Is there anything this man can’t do? Leaky faucets, tech issues, legal conundrums and more: Valeny is your go-to-guy.

arrow-up-5-xxl Offense. Caopolo is not at all the most skilled of this league’s teams when it comes to protecting the goal; still, we were able to create a decent number of chances and sometimes did it in style.

down-circular-xxl Finishing. Ordaz and Minanda had a bunch of clear-cut chances, but missed them all. Do I have to start Valeny as a CF?

down-circular-xxl Castolo. It’s not looking good for him. Often he has a negative influence on the team’s play: but this time around, he had no influence at all. It’s like he wasn’t even playing; it’s as if Ordaz was all alone out there.

ML United Pre-Season – vs Angola

Pre-Season Match #3: ML United vs Angola

Starting XI: Zamenhof, Ceciu, Stremer, Valeny; Iouga, Jaric, Macco, Giersen, Hamsun; Castolo, Huylens.

On the final match of our Friendly Tour we were facing Angola’s National Team. Their squad is certainly not one of the most impressive of the National Teams of PES6, quite the opposite actually; but still, they do have a bit of quality on some positions and definitely are much more skilled than the Defaults.

It was also the only match of this sequence of friendlies in which we played in our Home ground, Highbury.

…what’s that you say? Highbury, former Arsenal stadium, was demolished?

Nah, dude. I was there, it’s alive and well.

I decided to use this match to give minutes to substitutes and reserves, as well as to try out Jaric as DMF. He’s needed as a CB, surely, but given his non-horrible short passing and great long passing, it’s a good idea to use him there if the appropriate occasion arises.

Also, Zamenhof’s in the starting-11, the world has gone mad.


 

Angola didn’t look very much worried about competing in this match. I know, they should be much more preoccupied with issues like the nation’s appalling wealth inequality, or its aging infrastructures. The thing is, they didn’t care enough to bring their real player names, the a-holes. Anyway, their lack of will allowed us to threaten their defensive line, though we were never quite close to actually creating some kind of decent scoring chances. We had a few shots on goal early on, but…I’d lie if I told you any of those chances didn’t fly well above the stands and hit a car on the nearby highway.

Enter Kazuki Ito.

Who? If you’re a seasoned PES player, a retro-PES enthusiast, or if you just hang out often with any of those on the Retro Sports Club headquarters and overheard them mentioning the name, you already know who Kazuki Ito. If, on the other hand, you’re just a rookie and have no idea of who he is, Kazuki Ito is a fictional referee who appeared on the PES iterations of the PS2-PES era. He quickly rose to virtual stardom and became by far the most popular referee ever in a football videogame merely because of his short fuse – which means, he gives out yellow and red cards like candy. A tackle? Yellow card. Shirt-pulling? Yellow card. Sneezed? Red, get outta here! To this day, few retro-PES players have finished a match officiated by Mr. Ito without having seen at least one of their (or the opponent’s) players be sent off. Death, taxes, and an Ito’s Red Card.

Anyway, Jaric attempts a sliding tackle, hits the opponent and is sent off immediately. That should’ve been a yellow card at most, I yelled. Ito doesn’t care.


You can pray as much as you want Jaric, you're never getting back in this picture.

Down to 10 men, it was time for the Zamenhof show.

Yes, I said it. The Zamenhof show.

Angola upped their game and had a lot of shots on goal, all of them saved by Zamenhof.


Casillas? Buffon? Cech? No. It's Zamenhof.

I can’t even remember how many he saved, but it was surely more than eight clear-cut-chances, not to mention the simpler shots he also collected – and we all know there’s no such thing as an easy task for a ML Default.


A shell-shocked Stremer got a front-row seat to watch the Superman.

Zamenhof did save everything, up until Ceciu decided to “Ceciu it” and after a cross from the left, tries to header the ball, but instead headers it with his voluptuous hair, which gives it a strange and ultimately undesired trajectory and it’s an own-goal (75′). Use conditioner next-time, motherf*****.

By then, I had already subbed in the big boys like Ordaz and Ximelez, Dodo and Fouque – I kid, Fouque’s not a big boy. We really weren’t able to do anything at all out there offensively, but when Ximelez got the ball down the left, faked a clumsy Angolan defender, and delivered a perfect cross, this time, neither Huylens nor Castolo were on the receiving end – thankfully -; this time, it was Ordaz’s time to shine and he dived to header it perfectly. 1-1 (88′).


Ordaz ties it 1-1. Thank God it wasn't Burchet heading it...

Before the final whistle, there was still enough time for Mr. Ito to steal the spotlight as he very much always loves to.


Flap your Dodo wings and get outta here!

The match ends 1-1, and once again, a PK shootout to calm everyone’s nerves. Unlike vs. Celta de Vigo, we lost it thanks to Burchet and Espimas’ missed penalties – and Lothar’s incompetence, which made me regret the decision of subbing an inspired Zamenhof for this clueless f***. Angola celebrates effusively, but those f*cktards will never set foot in Highbury ever again anyway, so good riddance! Next time bring your A-Game and your real player names and we’ll beat you by 5 goals, 4 from Burchet and one non-own-goal by Ceciu.


Cheer up, Espimas. Stein is a bit of a douche, don't take it personally...

ML United 1-1 Angola (Ordaz 88′, Ceciu own-goal 75′)

MoM: Zamenhof. Never thought I would ever write these words. Zamenhof made a handful of competent saves, and incarnated Buffon to defend a couple of impossible shots. The only shot he didn’t save was Ceciu’s clearance…which ended up in the wrong goal. Watch out Ivarov.

arrow-up-5-xxl Competitiveness. Even though we played an hour with just 10 men on the pitch, the team compensated Jaric’s absence pretty well.

arrow-up-5-xxl Valeny. Solid and reliable as ever, didn’t let anyone past him. Formed an unusually tight partnership with Ceciu and Stremer, and shone bright.

down-circular-xxl Offense – yet again. It’s understandable that we couldn’t do much offensively after the first red card, but even before that event, our offense was out of ideas and showing little skill.

down-circular-xxl Castolo and Huylens. My God, what an horrible duo they were. The brazilian and Oranges were completely out of sync with each other: while Castolo was trying to dribble everyone and anyone and failing at it, Huylens was lost out there, barely keeping up with the play. At this point, Ordaz is looking like a star in comparison with every other striker of this squad…

ML United Pre-Season – vs PES United

Pre-Season Match #2: ML United vs PES United

Starting XI: Ivarov; Stremer, Libermann, Jaric; Iouga, Dodo, Espimas, Ruskin, Minanda; Hamsun, Ordaz.

After the 0-0 draw against Celta, it was time to face one of ML United’s most feared rivals, one that coincidentally will be playing in the same division as our Defaults in Season One of this save. I’m speaking of PES United.

Over the course of the PS2-PES era, and even on some PS3-PES iterations, among the real-life teams and players, there were only three entirely fictional football clubs – comprised also of totally invented footballers – in PES’ database. Two of them appeared as playable teams, PES and WE United, while the Defaults were only usable in the Master League mode.

In a database filled with dozens of National Teams and hundreds of football clubs, whose players were all real even if some had fake names, three fantasy teams fight for dominance for to become the best football club from Parts Unknown.


 

I’m using these friendly matches to dissipate any remaining doubts about our starting-11, for when the real competition comes. This time, I tried out Stremer instead of Valeny, Iouga for Stein, Ruskin for Ximelez and Hamsun for Castolo. The rest of the starting-11 is pretty much defined already.

The game was very similar to our Celta encounter a few days ago, at least in the first half. I was growing suspicious that PES United was pulling a Celta and let us walk all over them, maybe because our Fantasy Rivals were conserving energy for what’s coming in Division 2; but after Agata scored the first goal just before halftime (45′), PES United took over and completely dominated the match. I don’t remember having a clear chance on goal for the whole of the 2nd half, while they kept applying pressure – though they seldom could bother Ivarov with proper shooting. After Otam scored the second (69′), they calmed down and just cruised along until the end, while ML United tried but were never able to answer back with at least one goal of their own.

This match has shown that we need to become much more competitive if we want to survive in D2. Pray for ML United.

ML United 0-2 PES United (Agata 45′, Otam 69′)

MoM: Ordaz. He barely had any chances on goal, but he was indeed the only one of our players with enough ability to compete with PES United’s. He singlehandedly carried our team on offense most of the times, and let the impression that he was ML United’s only actual pro footballer on the pitch.

arrow-up-5-xxl Defensive stability. Despite PES United’s absolute control of the entire game, and the offensive pressure they applied often, our defense rarely ever let them have a clear cut chance – except on crosses…

down-circular-xxl Offense. Most of ML United’s plays were long balls played to the attacking duo up front, showing a glaring lack of creativity.

down-circular-xxl The subs. From Stremer to Hamsun, neither of the guys who I decided to introduce in the starting-11 were convincing, not at all really. A wasted opportunity…

down-circular-xxl Our back-3 was particularly vulnerable in the air, both of PES United’s goals came from crosses which were oh-so-poorly dealt by the likes of Stremer and yes, even Libermann!…

The Good Old Days are back

I do, because the good old days never left.

I really like NBA2K11, it’s one of my favourite sports games of all time. So, I play it. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It’s because it is that simple, actually. The idea that you have to play only the latest iteration of each game series is as ridiculous as only watching movies or listening to music which were released in the present year. No, don’t watch a Hitchcock movie or listen to a Beach Boys album, those are…old!

This doesn’t mean one should stop playing modern games altogether. It’s not about retro vs. modern gaming. It’s about understanding that we have an endless catalog of sports games to play and we can choose the games we prefer playing, regardless of when they were released.

So, to whoever wants those “good old days” back:

Step one: Get NBA2K11

Step two: Install it/Play it

Step three: You’re welcome.

Play games you enjoy playing.

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