When Coach Jake Zalesky took over the Flathead Soccer 2011 Boys, a group he has now been coaching for three consecutive seasons, he knew that they had some special components as a group. Zalesky immediately noticed the team’s overall technical acumen, but more importantly a collective love for the game of soccer. Now over a year later, Zalesky is seeing the hard work that he has put in with the group pay dividends for the team, as the 2011 Boys took home the first place trophy at Flathead Soccer Club’s Annual Tamarack Fall Classic.
This year though, Zalesky has been tasked with coaching two teams, the other being the FSC 2012 boys. While Zalesky is working on a few more of the basic fundamentals with his younger group, he values the same things with both groups: possession oriented soccer that focuses on progression to goal. For those that have worked with Zalesky, it comes as no surprise that his 2012 Boys team also won the Tamarack Fall Classic, in undefeated fashion.
Flathead Soccer Club 2012 Boys
When Coach Zalesky began working with the 2012 Boys he immediately noticed the exceptional level of individual talent on the team. He also recognized the challenge that would come in integrating the individual skill of each player together in developing a well-rounded team.
“We have a lot of good individual players and a lot of good skill, the missing component for that team has been being able to work more as a team and build off each other a little bit more,” said Zalesky. “We have three or four players on that team that can make magic happen, which is what they did consistently throughout the tournament.”
In five games, the 2012 Boys scored a phenomenal 19 goals, while only conceding 5 goals throughout the entirety of the tournament. Still, Zalesky noted that the team really began to gel offensively when they played against Montana Surf in the tournament final. The boys won the game 3-1, but Zalesky was more impressed with the fashion in which the team scored their goals than the scoreline itself.
“When it came to the final, they really started clicking together and working off each other and they were just firing on all cylinders, so it was really great to see that.”
In speaking with me, Zalesky went into detail on the work that the boys have been doing in practice to increase their dynamism when going to goal. By focusing on fundamental aspects of team attacking, the boys have taken their game to another level.
“We have been working in practice on core concepts that allow them to progress forward,” said Zalesky. “Open body profile, head up, scan, read the field, which allows them more time and space on the ball and so when they get into the attacking third, they’re finally noticing how much time they have.”
Flathead Soccer Club 2011 Boys
For the FSC 2011 Boys team, the Tamarack Fall Classic was business as usual. The boys came into the tournament hoping to showcase their offensive firepower, and did just that. In 4 games the boys scored an unbelievable 40 goals, enroute to a championship victory over Montana Surf in which they scored 9 goals. For Zalesky, the goal scoring is a direct result of the style of play the boys have embraced.
“They’re starting to play proper football and it is really beautiful to watch,” said Zalesky. “I think it’s the fact that we have four players on that team that are Olympic Development Program (ODP) level players and are starting to make everyone else want to improve their game.”
Throughout our conversation, Zalesky noted that the team’s high level of play can be attributed in large part to an uncanny level of passion for the game. Simply put, these young players are in love with the game of soccer.
“I honestly think the culture of this team is turning into a footy culture, these guys are obsessed with the game,” said Zalesky. “All the boys collect soccer playing cards, they talk about the English Premier League, La Liga, Champions League, and they are getting all stoked for the World Cup. There is something to be said about the passion these boys have, and they put in so much time outside of practice.”
The overall interest in the game has enabled the coaching staff to move past some of the more basic fundamentals of the game, something that Zalesky believes gives the team a significant advantage against most competition.
“Yeah we work on the core concepts, but we have been able to progress into more advanced attacking patterns and just go a little more in depth about the game,” said Zalesky. “That team is going to be dangerous for any team in the state of Montana.”