In the first installment of Yanked Abroad, I had gotten off to a reasonable start, signing three players to bulk up the midfield and defense, progressing through the first three qualification rounds of the Europa League, and going 1-1-1 in league play. That was only good for 8th in a twelve-team league, but the three games were against some of the big guns.
As we resume our journey, 33 year old winger/forward Søren Berg is pissed with me because I deemed him too important to the cause to let him hold talks with our league rivals, Odense. Serves me right. Probably should have taken the money and invested in younger guys.
Danish Premier - Randers 4:1 HB Køge
Køge are bottom of the league and winless. We're at home. They've got a major injury crisis. We're in form. Sounds like a recipe for victory, eh? We set out to attack from the opening whistle and get pegged back for the first 15 minutes. Huh? So I pull back and play a more conservative game, and we start to control possession. We aren't creating much, but new midfielder Zhou pulls out another moment of magic from distance, hitting a curler from well outside the box. Then Movsisyan beats two guys on the dribble before lacing one near-post to put us up two at the half.
We start the second period brightly, but round about the hour mark, we take our foot off the gas and Køge get one back after a scramble in the six yard box. I sub out some tired legs and look to push forward again. This time it's Lorentzen with the magic, beating his man and hitting a missile to the near stick from well outside the box. Zhou tacks a second on late to wrap up his Man of the Match award, and the result goes the way I had hoped.
Good week for the players. Zhou and Lorentzen finish 1-2 in the Goal of the Week competition while Movsisyan joins those two in the Team of the Week first eleven. Midweek is an international date, so Zhou hops a plane for China where he'll face...Nepal? Oh dear. Hope he makes it back in time for next weekend's league tilt. I allow myself a moment to sympathize with my real-life counterparts seeing off Yanks jetting across the Atlantic to face the likes of Barbados.
Danish Premier - FC Midtjylland 1:1 Randers
The pundits were saying draw though the betting odds were heavily in favor of our hosts. I played it cautious. That looked like the wrong call after the opening quarter-hour. They had the better of the chances early, but we soon settled and started playing well. On the half hour, we conceded our normal sort of goal. They broke, crossed for the back post. The crashing winger headed on frame, but our keeper saved, only to spill it in the six. About five guys piled together and half ended up with the ball in the back of our net.
Movsisyan responded within ten minutes after a slight change of shape to cut down the space in front of my center backs. Though it went down as an own goal, he pounded the crap out of a short driven corner. It hit the post, a defender, rebounded back against the keeper's derriere, and ricocheted home. 1-1 at the half, and I'm afraid I stayed too cautious when I might really have pressed them given that we controlled 59% of possession. Sadly, I was too afraid of their speed on the counter, so I settled for the road draw. Club captain Nygaard made his first appearance of the season, coming on for the last 25 minutes.
Europa League, Fourth Qualifying Round
Randers 0:3 Roma
Ugh...though the result does flatter Roma a bit. I decided that we would have gotten killed by sitting back and letting Totti and Pizzaro pick us apart so I went out to attack. The first half was pulsating stuff. Multiple chances at both ends. Totti hit the post twice. Center back Issah Ahmed rang their crossbar from a free kick for us. Movsisyan had three good chances either saved or deflected wide by defenders.
Then I was forced by injury to go with a less physical midfield and within a minute, Pizzaro picked out Taddei between our center backs and we were down just on the stroke of halftime. We came out from the break still looking to press them and had a couple of chances, but they were really starting to ping the ball around. Vucinic put them up two after he skinned our right back for the twentieth time (or so). I really missed Zhou, Gray, and Krol from my starting lineup because they're not registered for this competition. Burdisso headed home a Totti corner in the 89th minute to pretty much guarantee our exit from the Europa league.
Danish Cup Second Round - Frederikshavn 0:3 Randers
I went with a mix of my non-Euro registered starters and fringe/youth players in this cup match. I'm making the cup a high priority since I don't rate our league chances particularly highly. Want-away geriatric winger Søren Berg opened the scoring in the 6th minute after a tremendous defense-splitting ball from Kelly Gray in midfield. Berg then fed Olsen, who finished clinically, only to have it called back for offsides. My players were irate. No matter. Berg then nodded home an Olsen chip to the far post to double our lead. Wonder if he's sending me a message? It's not like I didn't know he had quality. That's the reason I refused to let him leave for our rivals in the first place...duh.
With a cushion, I decided to experiment in the second half, testing a 4-2-3-1 with the central attacking mid dropping deep, the wide men playing as out-and-out wingers, and one of the two holders sitting deep in a d-mid role. It worked well, effectively playing as a 4-3-3 with overlapping fullbacks and the a-mid prompting in front of two holders. That said, it's hard to say if it would be as effective against stronger competition. Despite numerous posts and crossbars hit and 34 shots in 90 minutes, we only managed to tally once more, young center back Mads Fenger nodding home a Ricki Olsen free kick.
The draw for the third round gives us Viborg, previous winners of the competition as recently as 2000. A quick look at their squad reveals quality roughly equal to our own, though not in so much depth. Might be a tough one.
Europa League, Fourth Qualifying Round
Roma 3:0 Randers
And we're out of Europe with a dreadful thud. We set out to counter in this game and had chances. Unfortunately, Vucinic absolutely mauled us playing on the left of midfield, scoring twice and picking up a deserved man of the match award. Down 2-0 at the half and 5-0 on aggregate, I decided to try my 4-2-3-1 experimental formation, expecting to get absolutely torched on the wings. Instead, it looked fairly solid and gave us much better possession. Vucinic sill scored for them, but it was after he danced across the middle and drove a laser home from 25 yards rather than constantly getting in behind our fullbacks. Interesting. This formation might also let me play Nygaard and Movsisyan in the same team if I play Movsisyan on the wing.
Danish Premier - Randers 4:0 Silkeborg
Nothing like a home match against weaker opposition to pick up the spirits after being knocked out of a competition. We controlled the first half with some nice possession stuff, but were frustrated by Zhou going all "Tino Quaranta" and taking blasts from pretty much anywhere within 40 yards of goal. Finally, a sustained period of play let us get him the ball inside the 18, and he duly converted. We played out the half comfortably and started the second stanza much the same.
Round about the hour mark, Silkeborg started pressing for an equalizer and had a PK claim turned down before Movsisyan, shifted to the wing on 68 minutes to accommodate Nygaard coming in up top, picked out a through ball to the aforementioned Nygaard, who drilled a 20 yarder right through their keeper. Krol then fed Beckmann on the left, who slotted home for 3-0. We dropped off and played counter-ball, Zhou claiming a brace by firing home a "screamer" from the edge of the box just before we entered stoppage time.
And that brings us to the international break at the beginning of September, which is as good a place as any to hit the pause button on Yanked Abroad. I've gotten off to a decent start...
...despite the disappointment of getting hammered in the Europa League. We're third in the league after six games, and I'm reasonably satisfied with the roster, though I've definitely got my eye on a couple of moves to make in the winter transfer window. I've spent none of my $400k transfer budget, but I also have less than $2k available for salaries, so we'll have to clear some wages off the books before I can start seriously thinking about the 2-3 players I'd like to bring in for the second part of the campaign. Of course, much depends on how the current roster handles the next couple of months...