When last we met in Yanked Abroad, six of my players were jetting off for international fixtures. I arranged a friendly with one of my feeder clubs and kept the rest of the lot match sharp with a 3-0 victory that saw me experiment with three versions of a 4-2-3-1, none of which impressed terribly. Sadly, part of the international departure crew was Yura Movsisyan, who, as will soon be the case in real life, has cast his lot with Armenia.
With this loss of Yankitude, I've snapped up young American striker Preston Zimmerman on a free transfer as I'm not terribly enamored of our depth up top. Unfortunately, the damn kid then goes and tells the media how he's going to be using Randers as a stepping stone to bigger clubs. Not surprisingly, the fans are unimpressed. I also take a flyer on a young, unattached goalkeeper who's the backup for the Hungarian U-19 squad. He immediately joins my own youth setup.
Danish Premier - AGF 2:0 Randers
If the fans were disappointed with Zimmerman's commitment to the club, they're similarly unimpressed when we go down 2-0 away to Aarhus. No matter that AGF had five wins and one draw in their 6 opening matches with a +15 goal difference and that we're playing in their house. What matters is that they're our archrivals, and we got skunked. Of course, our undoing was the result of Benny Feilhaber pulling the strings. He scored their opener on a curler from outside the box that went in off the crossbar, and set up their second midway through the second half. We shaded possession, and probably had the three best chances outside of the one Feilhaber set up, but couldn't find the finishes. Ugh.
Hey lookie! Feilhaber and Chris Rolfe finished 1-2 in the Goal of the Week voting. Huzzah, Yanks in Daneland!
Danish Premier - Randers 3:1 Nordsj ælland
We started well, bossing the first half hour but creating few clear cut chances. When the opener came, it was messy; the ball bounced around their box with a bit of head tennis before Zhou put away the scraps. Frankly, it's the type of goal we're used to conceding, not putting away. So it should have come as no surprise that they equalized on the hour mark with a screamer from the edge of the box, our usual modus operandi. Fortunately, Movsisyan hit another of his trademark first-timers direct from the corner to restore the lead. With Nordsjælland (Michael Parkhurst out injured, by the way, thanks for asking) pushing men forward, I brought on target brute Nygaard, dropped the wings and played 4-4-2 in flat banks. Within minutes, Man of the Match Movsisyan played in Nygaard, who dashed thirty yards, kept his cool as the defenders closed behind him, and tucked away the insurance goal.
Danish Premier - Brøndby 1:2 Randers
I made one adjustment to my usual starting lineup for this game. Sane usually plays as the attacking mid in support of the striker with Zhou holding alongside Karlsen. I swapped Sane and Zhou, hoping that the former's dynamism and the latter's craft might be better exploited in their new positions. Fan favorite Sane proved me correct, scoring both of our goals in the first half, dashing onto (1) the final dink by Movsisyan from a series of quick one touch passes from the left touchline to the spot and (2) a cutback from the endline by Movsisyan after a mad dash down the left flank.
Brøndby were favorites in their own house and they piled on the pressure in the second half. I made my usual switch, going with a more defensive midfield line and bringing Nygaard on up top to partner Movsisyan for the counter. The latter drew a penalty with a quarter of the game remaining, but Nygaard put his effort wide. I can't fault him for the shift he put in afterwards though; he won headers, held the ball, ran down the flanks. Solid win.
Danish Cup, Third Round - Viborg 0:0 Randers (4:5 on PK's)
F'ing death march. Drawn away against lower division Viborg, we were nonetheless underdogs against a team we consider rivals. We dominated the early proceedings, but couldn't get a solid look at goal. They started to come on towards the end of the first half, so I went 4-4-2 in the second, but still found little joy. Viborg had less, but we went to extra time locked on zeroes and found ourselves at the same impasse after 120 minutes. Ellegaard saved their first penalty, but everybody tallied from then on. Through the fourth round in a nailbiter! In the process, however, we lost utility defender/midfield Pedersen and starting winger Beckmann for a couple of weeks.
The fourth round draw sends us away to AC Horsens, another lower division club listed amongst our rivals. I've noted Horsens before because they spent some big cash in the transfer window. Looks like another away trip where we'll be considered underdogs.
Danish Premier - Randers 1:1 Sønderjysk
Tough start. Our backline was shredded on an early break, and we were down inside of 10 minutes. Given more license to get forward, my boys were still ineffective. I gave them hell at the half and they came out firing, Søren Berg finishing a rebound after a sustained barrage on the Sønderjysk net. Despite huffing and puffing and a few formation shifts, we couldn't find the second, surviving a late scare in the process. Sønderjysk is the type of team we need to be beating, although the supporters are happy with the draw, reflecting our poor reputation in the league.
I schedule a couple of friendlies over the international break, one to run the rule over my fringe, reserve, and youth players, and the other to keep the starters match fit. The reserves win their match, something I wasn't expecting when I had to go with youth center backs, given that my second-choice pairing are away on international duty. But the seniors lose 2-1, despite hitting the woodwork twice and outshooting our opponents 22 to 4. In both matches, I experimented with two-forward formations, anticipating using both Movsisyan and Nygaard together. Both were fragile defensively, though some of the blame has to go to the goalkeepers. Remember those irons I was keeping in the transfer market fire? An upgrade in net is one of those irons.
Bad luck on the injury front as well. Tidiane Sane, our dynamic attacking midfielder, is out for a month, just as we approach a 5 matches in 15 days stretch. Those two-forward formations might have moved from possibility to necessity...
Speaking of injury crises, I decided to look in on Onalfo at DC United. He's still in a job, though United are officially out of the playoff picture with three games to go. Cristman and Cunningham form Onalfo's preferred strike force (Alan Gordon apparently serving as the first choice off the bench) with a combined 12 goals, though old man Moreno, playing in the a-mid role at the top of a midfield diamond has 18 in 34 games.
With that lovely thought in mind, I'll wrap things up for this installment of Yanked Abroad. Next time around, we plow through the condensed fixture list of late October and early November, then ease into the winter break that starts in December.
Check it out, FBF now sports an "FM Tales" page for easily accessing my current and former FM adventures. You can purchase Football Manager 2010 at Amazon.com or other fine retailers, though your social life may inevitably suffer. You have been warned...