Oh how strange this beautiful game can be.
Albion Pros, the San Diego based National Premier Soccer League side in their second year of competitive operations, breezed through 2016 with barely a dent notched against them on their way to the national quarterfinals. 2017 has been a little different.
Through six league matches, Albion Pros had won just two and lost four, this after not losing a single regular season contest in 2016. Their record saw them in 7th place in the nine team Southwestern Conference, just above perennial doormats Corinthians USA and City of Angels FC.
But it wasn’t just the wins and losses that were troubling. Albion had scored just seven goals in those six matches, finding the back of the net proving to be a mighty struggle for a team loaded with attacking talent. Four of those goals came in a season opening win against Oxnard Guerreros! In the subsequent five NPSL matches, Albion won just once and scored a measly three goals.
These numbers were drawing quite a bit of attention, and certainly had to be on the minds of players and coaches anxious to turn the tides and get the club back to meeting expectations.
This past Saturday, it was just what the doctor orderes, as Albion Pros got off the schneid with a hard fought 2-1 victory over SoCal SC in San Bernardino. The win sees the Pros shoot back up to 5th place in the conference on nine points, just one point back of Temecula in the fourth and final playoff spot with 11 matches to go.
Upon the team’s return to San Diego, we caught up with Albion Pros Head Coach Ziggy Korytoski, discussing the much needed win, the early season struggles, and the upcoming US Open Cup match against Chula Vista FC.
Here’s Part 1 of the conversation.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Coach, thanks for joining us. So Albion Pros finally picked up a win after a very difficult start to the season. What did this latest result do for you guys?
Ziggy Korytoski (HC Albion Pros): It feels good to get a win, but we have a lot more work to do, on and off the field. The Pros are the top of our pyramid at Albion SC. We have such a great foundation with our youth program, and we are really starting to see it all come together in terms of maximizing player development and fusing together the Pros with our development academy and our entire youth soccer culture. With the talent we’ve drawn in and with the team we’ve put together, we’re built to succeed. I think with this win under our belts, we can exhale a bit. We’re in a good zone right now and are ready to battle.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): So you win your season opener 4-1 against Oxnard, then lose four of your next five while scoring just three goals. What was going wrong for you and your team?
Ziggy Korytoski (HC Albion Pros): Well, you hit it right there. One of the biggest things is that we just could not find the back of the net. Goals just weren’t happening. We were creating great opportunities to score in all of those matches. The final touch was just not there. I thought we were extremely unlucky on a number of occasions, but we also lacked concentration in critical moments.
Another aspect of that tough run… I think we were really beating ourselves some of the time. I think some of the goals we conceded were kind of self inflicted. We’ve only conceded eight times in seven matches, but some of those were very much preventable. We played a very strong game the other night in San Bernardino against SoCal SC. But based on our start to the season, we’re behind the eight ball a bit, and we need to start racking up these wins.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Why do you feel the result this weekend went your way?
Ziggy Korytoski (HC Albion Pros): I thought we were sharp. We stayed focused for the full 90 minutes. I’m not sure if I’ve really seen that from us this season until now, and it needs to continue.
It was a real passionate game. They’re a good side and we’ve obviously got some history with them going back to last year. It was a full-hearted match from all angles.
We went up 2-0, and I honestly feel it could’ve been more. Tre Hayes hit the post, Luan Oliveira had a great chance to make it 3-0. But even up 2-0, we felt confident that we could hold on strong. We just couldn’t concede any dangerous moments, or have any of those self inflicted goals against. I knew if we just keep things tidy at the back, we’d get out of there with three points. They got one back and really put it to the test. Credit to them for their fight. But I really feel like we’re hitting a stride right now. With everything coming up in the next few weeks, this is a great time for us to get some serious momentum.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): We talked about some of the reasons for the early season struggles. Within the losing spell, what were some of your saving graces? What were some of the positives you were seeing in that time, as well as in the last week in training and the match against SoCal SC?
Ziggy Korytoski (HC Albion Pros): One thing that really has stuck out for me is the depth on this roster. We were without Jean (Antoine) in goal for the first time after he was sent off in the prior game. Kyle Jackson jumped in goal and had an outstanding game. He was calm and professional and we never missed a beat. Tre Hayes has been on the bench a bit during the early part of the season. He jumped in up top this weekend and had a really good game.
Whoever’s number is called, I’m confident that they’re gonna get the job done. We value preparation above almost all else. The depth of this squad is one of the best parts of this job, because it allows me to prepare to my best capabilities as a manager. It’s such a blessing to have depth like that, and to have a team that can show different faces. We can play with two up top. We can play with three up top. We can go with a lone striker. We can change things around in the back if we ever need to. We are well prepared to take on anything that’s thrown our way.
(Stay tuned to SoccerNation for Part 2 of our exclusive conversation with Albion Pros Head Coach Ziggy Korytoski.)