Manley's Blog

The Grand Finale

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 20, 2009

Group IV Final
At The College of New Jersey
Toms River South vs. Clifton, 5:30 p.m.

I’m one of the few people actually liked the Seinfeld finale and thought it was an appropriate end to the series. Most people were expecting an hour-plus of the greatest episodes of the series all fused into one super episode. Instead, it basically just rounded up a bunch of characters and took the main cast through the most unlikely, far-fetched story possible.

I thought this worked fine. The show captured a lot of the nuances that made the show great and visited and revisited some of the show’s best characters. The story of the show was almost secondary. Regardless of whether or not the finale lived up to its high expectations was irrelevant because the point of the finale was to celebrate the life of the series. With that said, I understand why people didn’t like it. It was pretty clear that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David knew that this was the biggest finale in the history of television (still is) and that they had a little over an hour to give it an appropriate send off. When you have so many ideas and such a small time frame in which to blend them and make them a classic piece of work, you end up driving yourself crazy and it can get cluttered. You don’t want to leave anything in your bag of tricks, but emptying that bag can do more harm than good. Larry and Jerry might have worried too much about emptying the bag rather than sticking with what worked.

Asking Toms River South to end its run through the Group IV tournament in grand fashion would be like asking Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld to write a series finale of Seinfeld that went down as the best episode ever. It’s just too much to ask, and the more they stress about making the ending perfect, the easier it will be to screw it up. So if you’re Toms River South entering this game, you can’t worry about making it the most memorable game of the playoffs, because there’s no way it will be. It can’t be.

In talking to coach Ed Leibe, it sounds like his guys have a great perspective on things as they head into this game. When I asked them what’s driving them to play like this, he simply said, “They’re just playing.” That just about says it all when you go into such a major setting, like a championship game. You can do all the game-planning you want, but the best plan is to just go out and play the game and believe it’s going to work. There’s no reason to think Toms River South will try to do anything differently in this game.

I’m supposed to have an idea about these games, so simply saying that “Toms River South has to believe,” and calling it a key to the game isn’t quite good enough for me. They are playing against a Clifton team that will be playing in its third straight Group IV final. The Mustangs tied Manalapan two years ago and lost to the Rancocas Valley powerhouse last year, and they have to feel like it’s finally their time. They have yet to allow a goal in the tournament, which is interesting because Manalapan had not allowed a goal before running into Clifton two years ago. They are a tough defensive team and they have a superstar midfielder in junior Oscar Gonzalez, who has been arguably the team’s best player since he first stepped on the field two years ago. This will be his third state final in three years and I’d expect him to shine.

Toms River South has become more dangerous with each round, with their goal outputs by round going as follows: 1, 2, 2, 3, 4. The team is getting better with each game, even if it’s not winning more decisively with each game. Dealing with Gonzalez in the midfield will be a challenge, but scoring appears to be even more of a challenge against the Clifton defense. One aspect of Toms River South you have to like is that they move the ball quickly, whether in transition or building it up from the back. When the game is going TR South’s way, it looks like a basketball game – both teams just go back and forth down the field and there are a lot of chances. The question for South is can they dictate this tempo. Personally, I think the reason they’ve been so good late in the game is because the last 10 minutes of the game have a way of playing at a fast pace, which is when South is at its best.

Tom O’Neill will get the nod in goal, continuing the alternation between Giacomo Leibe and O’Neill. It’s more about defense most of the time, but O’Neill has made some big stops during the postseason and he’ll have a chance to make a few more Friday.

Now, onto the pick. I’d like to first say that I wanted to pick Clifton to avoid putting the same hex on TR South that I put on Marlboro and all three teams I picked on Tuesday (CBA, St. Rose and TR North, all losers). Then I thought that picking against them for that reason might be too transparent to the soccer gods, so I had to actually convince myself that Clifton was going to win the game. So, Clifton will win the game, and here’s why. This game is all about tempo and establishing tempo is all about poise. Being poised during the opening minutes of a game like this, as we’ve seen over the last few days, is a lot easier if you’ve been here before. So, I expect Clifton to threaten early and Toms River South to be playing from behind for the third straight game. You know what else we’ve seen three games in a row? Overtime. Do you know what happened in those three overtimes? TR South won. Since I’m more of a probability guy than a patterns guy, I don’t think a team can win every game in this fashion. Unless South gets an early cushion, the ride ends one eye-popping win short.

The Pick: Clifton 3-1. You’re welcome fellas.

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2 Responses

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  1. TRS BELIEVE said, on November 21, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Wrong again Believe in South …We did The players did !!! Champions group 4

  2. Christine Johnson said, on November 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I was so happy to see that you chose Clifton to win 3-1 over our Indians, just made it that much sweeter. There is not any team that comes close to the heart & soul of this Indian team and their very loyal family & fans that have been behind them cheering them on from the beginning of their magical run. Please give credit where credit is due,TOMS RIVER SOUTH is # 1 , way to go boys, you deserve it !!!


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