By Gary SheftickOctober 1, 2015
MUNGYEONG, South Korea (Army News Service, Oct. 1, 2015) -- USA goalkeeper Staff Sgt. Joshua Blodgett leaped, dove and used his head to block goals in the opening match of the Military World Games on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough to stop host-nation South Korea from prevailing 7-0.
The soccer match in downtown Mungyeong's Citizens Stadium was a much-anticipated event that kicked off what will be almost two weeks of international competition between more than 7,000 military athletes from 103 nations. The game took place a full two days before the official opening ceremony of the 2015 Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM World Games. The games are held every four years.
The South Korean military team went into the first game heavily favored with a roster of athletes, who had played for various teams in the K League, or Korean professional league. In fact, the Sangju Sangmu Football Club of the Korean military plays teams in the K League year-round.
The U.S. Armed Forces Men's Soccer Team, on the other hand, has only been playing together since Sept. 13, when players reported to training camp at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, near San Diego.
The players are still honing their communication with one another and beginning to gel as a team, its coaches said.
"I appreciate the hard work you guys did on the field," head coach Capt. Roye Locklear told his players immediately following the match.
"We just lost to a very good team," he said. "I'm very proud of the effort."
Despite valiant drives, Team USA only managed to get close to South Korea's goal enough to take six shots.
Forward Adrian Brown, a Marine Corps lance corporal, had three of those attempts. Midfielders Kevin Rosser and John Melcher of the Air Force each had one attempt and defender Ensign Martin Sanchez also took a shot.
South Korea had 21 shots with 11 of them on goal. The South Koreans dominated possession and maintained the ball 63 percent of the game. South Korea was also able to frequently penetrate the defense and get in deep.
"When you're 12 yards out, it's not hard to bury the ball," lamented USA's 6-foot-3 goalkeeper, Blodgett, who hails from Fort Irwin, California.
South Korea also had seven free kicks and a penalty kick that scored the third goal minutes before halftime. USA enjoyed only two free kicks.
USA committed 18 fouls, while Korea had only three.
"More communication is needed midfield," said USA assistant coach Air Force Master Sgt. Mario Morales.
Col. Mark Brown, deputy chief of mission for U.S. Armed Forces Soccer, said the players just need to improve their "speed of mental play." That means instead of thinking one or two moves ahead, they need to think five or six moves ahead. That comes with playing together, he explained, and predicted improvement with each match.
Locklear defined it as "spatial awareness" and said the South Koreans demonstrated it well. They could pass the ball back without even looking and know exactly where their teammate would be running.
That kind of awareness of each other doesn't come overnight, he said.
There are still five games to go, though, he reminded his players, adding that the first game "won't define us."