Saturday, June 9, 2012

Coach Kaetu Smith under the spotlight as Lone Star Loses

The Lone Star of Liberia 3-1 loss to the Teranga Lions of Senegal was the team’s nineteenth competitive consecutive away loss. The team last away victory came when the George Weah led generation pinned down Sierra Leone’s Leone Star 1-0, courtesy of a Weah’s booming header on September 21, 2001. Post Weah, the Lone Star has now played nineteen competitive away matches, losing all. In the process, conceding 54 goals and scoring just nine. This sluggish performance began from September 8, 2002, in the 3-0 away loss to the Sylli Nationale of Guinea during the 2004 AFCON qualifier

For the match with Senegal, the Lone Star took a stunning early lead through Malaysian club based Terangganu hit-man Francis ‘Grand Pa’ Doe as early as the 2nd minute, but despite a missed penalty  by captain Papiss Demba Cisse, the hosts won the game anyway, with goals coming from CA Osasuna 23 year old attacking ace, Ibrahima Balde in the 32nd minute, FC Copenhagen 27 year old danger man Dame Ndoye and an 83 minute easy goal from the 20 year old Metz midfielder Sadio Mane. Lone Star is now  last place in group J.  The other two group contenders are Angola’s Palancas Negras and the Cranes of Uganda. The both teams played to a grueling 1-1 draw in Luanda recently.

Questionable Tactics
It was quite astonishing that the Liberian FA hand picked coach Kaetu Smith implored a more positive tactic in a 4-4-2 formation, when he ordered his lads to attack on all fronts away from home in a difficult hunting ground at the Leopald Sengor Stadium in Dakar, Senegal. It is also important to note that the Lone Star conceded 12 goals in its last three matches prior to the June 2nd match. While the team got the early lead which stunned the Lions, coach Kaetu Smith was still adventurous and careless as he failed to park the bus by being negative in a 4-2-3-1 formation or a 4-4-1-1 formation or even a 4-5-1 formation. By Playing cautiously the team would have profited by protecting their early lead. 

By waiting patiently, and by dominating the midfield, the Lone Star would have caught the opponents who were hungry for the equalizer on a brutal counter attack. Instead, Smith who is reported to have coached a United States based female team, opted to disrespect the Senegalese who have qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. 

Poor Substitutions
As the match progressed, the towering Patrick Wleh who was not in a sparkling form got injured and was surprisingly replaced by a seemingly weaker player, the diminutive Zah Krangar. Taking into consideration the modern game requires aggressive and stronger players, coach Smith got it wrong. He should have brought in another hardworking player, probably Teah Dennis, Solomon Wesseh or James Zortiah as a means of stifling the midfield. The Indonesian based Zah Kranger was more of a help to the team offensively than defensively as the Senegalese dominated possession, making a good use of his deficit and misplacement. They neutralized the midfield, because the duo of Alseny Keita and Theo Lewis Weeks had by then ran out of steam.

Also, with the disappointing Solomon Grimes red carded, the Lone Star coach woefully substituted Captain Anthony Laffor who though was not in a vintage form compared to Francis Doe, was nonetheless good defensively. His recovery runs were useful as he imposed his presence by helping the full back. In fact, the coach did not react quickly. Dame Ndoye’s goal notably came as a result of goalkeeper Sherman howling the ball, probably had Laffor been in the game that goal would have been prevented.

Misplacing or Wrong pairing 
From all indications, the duo of Jimmy Dixon and Patrick Gerhardt are of similar qualities as they play on top of each other. They are players who are intelligent and are mainly involved in picking up the crumbs instead of being aggressive players. Besides, the newly appointed coach misplaced the team’s leading scorer Dioh Williams who is not gritty, when it comes to fighting for the ball, as well as tracking backwards by covering more grounds when his side is on the front foot attacking. He is more a technically gifted player who is mostly menacing as a front man. But, to use him as a lateral midfielder made him to switch off as he was overworked in an unfamiliar role.

So-Called Beautiful Football
It was quite comical to hear that after the match Coach Kaetu Smith said his side did not play a negative football, but rather, they attacked, created chances and played a “beautiful football”. What did his so-called beautiful football gave him and the Lone Star? He returned home empty handed. Did the result not mattered? Besides, how many times did his full backs venture forward by providing crosses, what width was in their game? What was the penetration towards the opponent's goal, and how can he claim a “beautiful football” when his side rarely made five consecutive passes in succession. Anyways, the record shows that Senegalese Lions won in an unconvincing fashion, Smith must take note and guide the team to wins or he risk losing his job.

Wleh Bedell (Edited by Ralph Geeplay)

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