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1/24/2023 6:44 pm  #41

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 70, 1st Division, Team by Team Previews
Hanuna (Bluefins) (Owner: Cyboar of House Eliason) (Manager: Lellochatnim of House Gull) (Formation: 5-2-2-1): Going into Year 70, the Bluefins are happy to see their beloved manager, Lellochatnim, back on the sidelines after missing the entire season last year due to a nasty starvation curse.   It doesn’t look like he’s quite at 100%, but the team will take what they can.   Weirdly, though, the starvation curse struck again during the offseason, this time the team’s owner, Cyboar, was hit with the exact same curse (he’ll be okay).   The authorities are looking for the mage responsible, but he’s been an illusive one thus far.

After hearing of the horror story that his defense has become, Lellochatnim decided to update the formation to copy Silagnak’s 5-2-2-1 formation to artificially improve the defensive performances.   This means changing Garlen of House Richenaan into a pure Right Centerback, which forces him to focus only on using his aggression to prevent goals despite having shown some surprising growth on offense.   He’s an incredible defender, but it does limit what Hanuna can do on offense, it seems an odd decision.  The Bluefins will be happy to see intelligent Left Centerback Shend of House Illard back after he missed much of last year with a bad knee injury. Also with a younger goalkeeper fresh from the Youth Academy, there’s no questioning that Hanuna should be much stronger on that half of the field. 

One has to wonder though, if the offense is good enough to make up for the defensive minded approach.   Alfenz of House Mohr (Striker) is likely to have another good season, but it feels like he’s out there a bit more by himself, especially since Osnardo of House Zahn (Right Forward) seems to have regressed again.  When in shape and motivated, Osnardo is a wonderful dribbler, able to open up space for himself in ways most forwards can’t.  However, winning the League Championship in Year 68 seems to have made him content, he’s worsened each of the last two years and he’s not getting younger either.   Alfenz will have to pull out a miracle if Hanuna is going to threaten on offense.

Hanuna’s 8th place finish last year looked worse than it was due to the team suffering a losing run near the end of the year.  Fans are hopeful that the new defensive formation, plus Lellochatnim’s usual coaching wizardry, will result in another competitive season.  

Their new 2nd jersey is rather basic, just a gold shirt with blue pants, a literal reversal of their normal home set.
Baelanholme (Pirates) (Owner: Candor of House Blusal) (Manager: Danotto of House Fongo) (Formation: 4-4-2): The mood at Baelanholme has been tense so far, judging from training camp.   Danotto, once praised as the next managerial genius, is likely fighting for his career this season and it shows, as he’s changed the team’s 3-3-3-1 formation and switched to a more conventional 4-4-2.  In general, he’s been an irritant to the players, demanding near perfection out of everyone while they learn the new formation.  For his part, Candor (Owner) doesn’t seem to mind, so long as the team has a much better showing than last year, when Baelanholme finished 10th, coming far closer to being relegated than they’d have liked. 

The offense will once again feature Waen of House Harbage and Mehcka of House Bhasah, both now playing as true forwards.  The hope was that with neither being a featured striker, maybe that would make them a more dangerous pairing, since in theory defenses wouldn’t just have one of them in particular to worry about.   In reality, Waen has regressed even worse since last year, age unfairly caught up with him far sooner than anyone would have liked.   Mehcka is still a legitimate scoring threat, but there isn’t much help to support him.   Either Waen’s going to have to have a surprisingly good year, or Mehcka’s going to have to learn how to make do with far less space to play with as opposing defenses are sure to hound him non-stop.

With guys like Shanto of House Sayloor (Right Center Midfielder) and Tyfir of House Angelbacc (Centerback/Stopper), Baelanholme’s defense is at least anchored well, which is good because there are two new defenders that are coming off the bench to start this year.  The biggest problem is Traxton of House Blackharth (Goalkeeper), who proved to be mentally frail and played horribly last year.   Unfortunately, Baelanholme still doesn’t have anyone in the Youth Academy that appears ready to take his place,  so the Pirates had better hope Shanto and Tyfir can prevent teams from shooting on Traxton too often, or long they’ll fall behind in many games.

Overall, experts are conflicted.    On the one hand, this is a team that finished just 1 point out of first place in the League Standings just two years ago, so in theory they shouldn’t have dropped out so far.   On the other hand, there are clear weaknesses on the team, particularly with goalkeeping and the attack seems one dimensional.   If being objective, those weaknesses, plus a young coach that seems to be trying too hard to regain his early career praise, are likely to result in another season where the Pirates are battling a relegation threat.

Their 2nd jerseys are in the same style as their primary, with gray and white stripes over gray pants.   It's a minimalistic approach to coming up with something new, most fans aren't too impressed.
Chalmblaank (Knights) (Owner: Pyppan of House Steelow) (Manager: Deagu of House Sanchor) (Formation: 4-3-3): After 3 years of 7th and 8th place finishes, Chalmblaank had a huge jump in the League Standings in Year 69, finishing in (a distant) 2nd place for the first time since that cursed Year 65 season.   Now the Knights look to build upon that positive result, hoping to finally win that elusive League Championship (although even a King’s Cup would probably suffice at this point, since they’ve never won one of those either).

If any championship is to occur, it’ll likely be on the strength of Chalmblaank’s defense, which did perform very well last year.   However, goalkeeping is going to be a real question mark.   For his part in the ugly King’s Cup brawl between himself and Petorvale’s Garrend of House Jackleton that involved several fans getting hurt (including a relative to King Mikelangel III), and because this was the 2nd altercation that those two had been involved in, Matrack of House Cattlebottle was suspended the entire Year 70 (considering the politics involved, he’s probably lucky it was only a year, there was talk of permanently banning both players from the Avornian Football League, Pyppan and Deagu had to do a LOT of work to convince the Avornian Football Committee to give them another chance).  Losing Matrack is going to hurt and it forced Chalmblaank to hurriedly promote a new goalkeeper from the Youth Academy, at least for this season.  The unfortunately named Piggan of House Vuvutaila is a rather no-nonsense type that carries himself in a way that expects to be listened to when he barks out directions for his defenders.   He is, in fact, a rather good strategist, well aware of where he needs to be (and where everyone else needs to be too) in every situation, at a level above what one would expect from a guy so young.   Good thing too, because he’s only an average athlete, so he’ll have to rely on his brains more than most goalies.  Still, Arlo of House Pixsan (Centerback/Sweeper) returns after making improvements last year, he can anchor the defense well, so it’s totally possible that the Knights will be successful on defense overall.

The offense still has Sirge of House Einna (Center Forward) as its best shooter.  Sirge is likely in his prime now, and he’s always happy to be the main scoring threat of the team.   He’ll have to be, because the longtime Center Midfielder, Alajandrus of House Capeburgh is probably past his prime now.   Alajandrus, an elite ball handler that can do just about anything, is still a great footballer, but after missing time again last year, it’s fair to wonder how much longer his body is going to hold up (he’s missed games in multiple seasons now).   Even if he can stay healthy, Chalmblaank only has an average offense, he and Sirge are easily the best players on that half of the field.

There is some concern about the goalkeeping position and the offense really could have used another asset by now.   However, to his credit, Deagu (Manager) has been building the team up during his three year reign and seems to be getting better at managing every situation far better than he used to.  He’s handled the adversity of Matrack’s suspension (plus the near weekly naggings of Sirge to remember to trust his teammates enough to pass them the ball) more maturely than he might have just a couple seasons ago.  If he can keep Chalmblaank in the top half of the standings again (certainly possible, though this will be a highly competitive season) it may be time to recognize him as one of the better manager in the game.

In a final bit of news, Chalmblaank has radically changed their attire.   Pyppan has always hated the Knight's dark gray shirt over red pants look and decided to demote that to the secondary jersey.   Now, Chalmblaank wears a gray and white striped red shirt over white pants.  In truth, Pyppan only kept the gray out of tradition, knowing there were more than a couple of nobles that liked the idea of the Knights wearing gray "armor" in the set.   Otherwise, he'd have likely just had the team wear a red and white striped shirt.  Whatever the reasoning may be, it's not a popular look so far, with fans saying it reminds them of Petorvale's stupid green and white striped shirt (they aren't wrong!).  Chalmblaank may be redesigning again in a hurry.
Leorux (Elves) (Owner: Herrad of House Hoopmeister) (Manager: Eddark of House Hoopmeister) (Formation: 4-4-2): After two straight 4th place finishes in the League Standings and also finishing as the runner ups of the last King’s Cup, it’s time to take Leorux seriously as a contender to win a Championship in Year 70.  The team adapted well to the changes in Eddark’s formation and he has several young talents that are quickly improving.   Not that underwhelming in Year 70 would put him at risk for termination, being the owner’s brother and all, but he’s competitive enough to where he’s plenty motivated to push his team to their best finish ever.   Speaking of Herrad, one of his more boring "business" decisions was to decide what to do with the Elves' secondary kit.  Not feeling very creative, he decided that a yellow shirt on top of white pants wouldn't be too much of an eyesore (he's wrong).

Being a defensive minded coach, it probably drove Eddark nuts that the Elves allowed the 5th most goals last year, no doubt why he spent a lot of time during the offseason working on his two centerbacks, Kade of House Nush (Left Centerback) and Azaroth of House Belock (Right Centerback).   They had both been making strides to improve over the years, but their communicating skills needed work, something they’ve worked hard on with their manager.   If they start working together more cohesively, expect improvements from the Elves’ defense.

The offense remains a good, if not feared unit.  Carles of House Yalmount (Right Forward) remains the best asset on attacks, but Joezas of House Nook (Left Forward) made great strides last year to compliment Carles on offense and looks good again in training camp.   Hemly of House Raber (Right Midfielder) provides additional support on passes or shots on goal.   He’s also worked hard on stealing the ball better, so that if Leorux losses the football, he can hopefully regain the ball to get another drive started quickly.

Indeed, there’s a lot of optimism coming from everyone in the farming and lumbering city.   Elves’ fans, for the 1st time ever, can have realistic championship aspirations.    The team’s starters seem to be continually improving (to the point where they only promoted one athlete from the Youth Academy, a midfielder that will mostly bench warm this season), the passionate manager has his team fully invested in his vision, and the owner has worked overtime to promote the team’s title hopes (it’s likely the team will sell out most if not all of their games for the first time ever).   Times have been good in Leorux, now comes the hard part, living up to their potential.
Anjocca (Sabercats) (Owner: Connavonn of House Duvaloi) (Manager: Markhen of House Stonner) (Formation: 4-3-3):  Most team owners would have been satisfied to see their team finish in the top half of the League Standings for in each of the previous four seasons, especially given the general amount of parity in the Avornian Football League, where even dramatic fluctuations are common.  Not Connavonn though.   He had expected a title during these four years with a roster he felt was good enough to win it all, (to be fair, Anjocca did win the King’s Cup back in Year 67).   However, despite Tan of House Browse doing his best, his team kept falling further and further out of 1st place (from 1 point in Year 66, to 6 in Year 67, to 7 in Year 68, and 19 in Year 69).   So, feeling a managerial change was needed, Connavonn fired Tan and decided to hire former player Markhen of House Stonner, who had shown promise early in his career but due to trying to play through bad injuries, shortened it greatly.   He’s still a bit of a tough guy and expects his team to be the same.  

News of this coaching change didn’t go over well at all, as the players liked Tan and felt the firing was nonsense.   Markhen isn’t nearly as liked, after he was benched for Shaggu of House Khaldrem (Right Wing), he was kept as a bench-warmer and was a miserable teammate for multiple years before his retirement.  Early reports haven’t improved his reputation at all, running the team like a drill sergeant.  Worse, he seems to be playing favorites, not pushing his brother, Tobyas (Center Forward), nearly as hard and is less critical of him while ripping Shaggu for the slightest mishap.  Time will tell, but the team looks way too tense at this point.

What also could hurt the team’s chances is the loss of Xaxi of House Pentuna, the long time goalkeeper, who has retired.   Xaxi, famous for being one eyed due to an early facial injury, had been known for his legendary toughness but had finally had to miss time for the first time of his career in Year 69.   Seeing that as a sign, he’s hanging up the gloves, now he can spend more time watching games in Anjocca and occasionally Meshalketh (where his brother Adiq is the manager).   Anjocca doesn’t really have anyone that can hold up the mantle as goalkeeper, so more will be expected of Gailor of House Omakyt (Left Centerback).   In one of the only good decisions Markhen has made so far, he’s essentially told Gailor to forget everything Tan “taught” him last year and focus again on being the hyper aggressive defender he was before Year 69, (good thing, as Year 69, when Tan was trying to teach him to play cleaner, was Gailor’s worst season by far).  Overall though, despite Gailor’s best efforts, Anjocca’s defense is likely more vulnerable than ever before.  The offense is in trouble too, Tobyas is declining more than ever, realistically he’s now considered a below average forward.   Shaggu is a talented guy, but with Markhen riding him all the time, one has to wonder if Shaggu having to look over his shoulder constantly is going to have an effect on his performance.   Dunne of House Werewilf (Center Midfielder) looks healthy for once, it’d be nice if he could play an entire season as he’s yet to do that in three seasons.  He’s a great player when active, the defense especially will be grateful if he can stay on the field.

Overall, this looks like it could be the Sabercats’ weakest team that they’ve assembled so far.   Markhen did inherit an aging squad that doesn’t have a great Youth Academy, oh and also an owner that still thinks Anjocca has what it takes to be competitive, so he’s got his hands full to be sure.   But the way he’s coached the team so far isn’t encouraging, in fact he’s likely destroying their morale, which won’t be good for performance.   The truth is, while they’ve not finished in the bottom 5 since Year 65, there’s a good chance that this team will finish closer to relegation than they will a championship this season.

At least they have a possibly decent alternate jersey now.   Anjocca goes with an all navy 2nd kit with yellow lateral stripes down the sides.   Of course, it's worth noting that since Anjocca started using Shadoman seamstresses to make the alternate, but not the primary jersey, the navy on the new kit actually looks like navy, (the cuffs and collar on the main set are supposed to be navy, but in fact are so dark, it looks black).
Tomen (Rivermen) (Owner: Knoan of House Whitley) (Manager: Loeb of House Gammiz) (Formation: 3-6-1): After a bad year and a half in Years 68 and 69, Tomen had finished last year strongly, jumping up from 12th place halfway into the year to all the way up to 6th in the League Standings.  Considering that in Loeb’s four and a half year run as the Rivermen’s manager, that the team only once has finished in the bottom half of the standings, one would assume that Tomen should be good to compete for a title once again.

The unusual 3-7-0 to 3-6-1 formation has been questioned a few times now, especially with Tomen having such an elite level offense star in Cragnus of House Sammsoon (Left Center Offensive Midfielder to Striker).   Cragnus has been famed for being quite likely the most incredible dribbler the game has ever seen and obviously a key piece to the offense.  Some experts feel that the formation is putting the spotlight too much so on him, whereas a more conventional formation could at least allow another teammate or two to join him on attacks to give off the presence of there being more than one scoring threat on the team.   However, Loeb, long a charismatic leader but never known for his strategic prowess, has steadfastly keep his formation for now.  To be fair, with the game’s best midfielder in Mishakl of House Floddergrove (Center Midfielder) being very adept to controlling the ball and passing it in just the right place for Cragnus to shoot, the gameplan has generally worked so far.  Mishakl has even scored a few goals here and there for variety, so in theory, Tomen’s offense should be just fine.

The defense is showing mostly the same faces too.  Argill (Right Centerback), Cragnus’ brother, is back, ready to cause mayhem again to offenses who dares cross his path.   The goalkeeper remains Stilston of House Amago, which is seen as a slight surprise.  It’s true that he performed better than expected in Year 69, but he remains a short goalie that wasn’t seen as very good for a reason.   He’s agile, but cautious in the position, a trait that didn’t backfire last year, so the hope is that his approach will allow him to overachieve again in Year 70. 

Overall, Tomen looks like their normal selves going into another year.   That should be a good thing, though of course, their normal selves have yet to win any championships since their King’s Cup title in Year 66, but that’s been a while ago.  As long as Loeb can keep the team motivated throughout the year, (and of course, if they can avoid injury problems) they should be a contender once again, though by now, experts are thinking Tomen’s best case scenario is limited by its odd formation and rah-rah heavy coaching approach, no one is predicting that the Rivermen will actually win any championships in Year 70.  Another thing that nobody predicted was Tomen's alternate jerseys.   With so many teams essentially using their usual color scheme to come up with the alternates, it's actually a bit refreshing to see the Rivermen pull out a kit that doesn't use any of their normal colors (all navy with red collar and cuffs).
Dobo (Claymen) (Owner: Jephard of House Obuis) (Manager: Mothrew of House Greenbend) (Formation: 3-4-3): Dobo fans saw their team jump up in the standings to 7th place in Year 69, a welcomed sight after two straight 11th place finishes.   Fans had been saddened when popular (if inefficient) manager Wahwmah of House Taccew had been let go, but the improved placement went a long way towards legitimizing Jephard and Mothrew’s new reign.   In truth, Dobo only improved by one point, so there’s plenty of work that needed to be done if Dobo was to keep that placement in Year 70.   Perhaps sensing this, Mothrew (who at this point is developing a reputation of being unafraid to switch things up if he thinks it’ll improve things) switched the team’s formation from the standard 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 approach, thinking the balanced formation could generate more offense, which Dobo deparately needs (they remain the last of the original 12 teams that have never scored 30 or more goals in a season at least once).

Another thing that will help Dobo is 2nd year player Sahasha of House Bethel (Left Forward), who mostly sat on the bench as a Youth Academy rookie last year.   He’s a very speedy, athletic guy, that’s also a healthy 6’1”, his height will be greatly appreciated for headers.  Axsan of House Sleigh (Center Forward) will be grateful for a legitimate passing option for scoring drives in case he’s too pressured by defenses.  That will only help Dobo if Axsan himself can bounce back after a disappointing season in Year 69, (to be fair, he had missed an entire year’s worth of games due to a horrible leg injury suffered in Year 68, so that’s to be somewhat expected).  If Sahasha and Axsan can get into good chemistry with each other, Dobo might just have their most dangerous offense ever.  The midfield looks good too, with Kocha of House Nabu (Right Center Midfielder) and Sindol of House Hattmen (Right Wingback) leading the attack with Dobo’s ball control strategy in mind.  Kocha is becoming a bit notorious for his demanding expectations of the team to play near perfect ball, he doesn’t let them slide.  He’ll probably make a great manager someday, but he’s way too young to be thinking that.   Sindol is a solid dribbler and has a nice cross pass that will likely hit Axsan a time or two for goals.

The Claymen’s defense has been rough to watch for the last few years, and unfortunately it doesn’t look any better now with only 3 defenders to man that half of the field.   2nd year Left Centerback Deason of House Amabastan is plenty talented, a natural at clean tackling that avoids penalties well for a guy so young, but he can’t do it all himself.  Dobo really needs another top level centerback and a new goalie if they ever want to avoid their strategy reducing to winning shootouts (not ideal for a ball control heavy team at all). 

Dobo’s going to be an interesting team to watch in Year 70.   In theory, the formation is more balanced now, but there are notable weakness on defense and question marks on the new (and recovering) forwards.   It isn’t expected that they’ll jump up the standings another four places, but it’s nice to see Mothrew lead the team in a clear direction and build up the young squad.   Finishing in the middle of the pack seems to be a reasonable goal for the Claymen.   

Finally, for the new alternate jersey, Dobo may have stumbled onto something with its red striped blue jersey that seems to go way better with their red pants than the main red with blue sleeves shirt does.  Jephard has noticed the fan reactions and is considering making a change after this year, so even if Dobo doesn't contend, they'll have something nice to look forward to!
Henix (Firebirds) (Owner: Caltan of House Zakariah) (Manager: Quant of House Tivers) (Formation: 4-4-2): The Firebirds were no doubt happy to survive the threat of relegation in Year 69, but now it was time for the team to finally take a step up the standings, having finished from 8th to 10th place every year in their existence so far.  Caltan (Owner) decided to hire another non-player in Quant of House Tivers as the new manager.  A close family friend to the Zakariah family, Quant is at least a huge football fan, having impressed Caltan with his knowledge of the game despite having never played professionally before.  Quant may not be quite as player friendly as Dobi of House Almen was, but he’s not off by much.  A calm presence, Quant will ride players gently for mistakes or unprofessional miscues, though that depends on how good the athlete is.   Someone like Ewick of House Poulser (Right Forward) might well get away with literal murder as skilled as he is, let alone for the constant trash talk.  In other words, Quant plays favorites, but as long as the star players aren’t complaining, neither will Caltan. 

Quant is also introducing a new 4-4-2 formation, to replace Dobi’s 4-3-3, in order to put more a little emphasis on defensive play. It’s long been known that Henix’s defense is about the worse in the league and Quant’s first mission was to find a way to improve it.  Carlin of House Fandanno would certainly appreciate it, seeing as he’s been the only halfway decent player on defense so far.  With 3 new centerbacks and fullbacks (obviously Carlin stays) in the starting lineup, the hope is that switching things up will make for a tighter defense.   It also helps that Quant worked with Endru of House Adib (Right Center Midfielder) on his defensive skills.   Endru is well rounded for the most part, but he usually focused on offense in the past, so the work on his field and situational awareness could help greatly.   

With the emphasis on just 2 forwards now, Ewick and Roh of House Quake (Left Forward) will be highlighted more by defenses.   Truthfully, Ewick’s big mouth has long put a target on his head, defenses are known to train especially hard when preparing to deal with him.   But Roh having more attention will be worth watching.   He had worked hard last year with Ewick to improve his confidence and willingness to take tough shots, which had paid dividends.   Hopefully he doesn’t regress because a dangerous Roh makes Ewick all the scarier to defend. 

It’s too early to say for sure where Henix will finish for sure.   They’ve certainly put some effort into improving the team, but it likely will come down to whether Quant’s new formation and mostly new defensive unit will be enough to make a huge difference or not.  

For new uniforms, the new alternate is their "ash gray" being used as the shirt color.   An orange line wraps around the jersey that matches the new orange pants, the only really inventive aspect of the kit.
Silagnak (Black and Blues) (Owner: Shonnie of House Bochwiller) (Manager: Mendo of House Tydent) (Formation: 5-2-2-1): The Black and Blues have been enjoying a golden period of sorts, having finished in the top four in both the League Standings and the King’s Cup for the last three seasons.  However, the glorious championships in either contest has evaded Silagnak up to this point.  Mendo, now 70 years old and looking more frail and wrinkled than ever before, has coached this team very well, but there’s questions as to how much longer he’ll want to keep managing for.  On the surface, he seems to be the same as usual, but one can’t help but notice that there seems to be a certain urgency to his tone and game planning this year.     Could a retirement be coming soon?

Another retirement to watch for is with long time defensive captain (and dirtiest player alive), Borky of House Silvor (Right Wingback), he’s already made it clear that this is his final season.  Mendo is allowing him back into the starting lineup for now, which is surprising considering Wels of House Portler (Right Wingback) looked pretty good when he played in Borky’s absence.  Whether it’s because of Wels’ age, his immaturity (he cost Silagnak a few times due to stupid penalties by way of hotheadedness), or just as respect for all Borky’s done as a leader, the gameplan is likely for the two to split time.  Silagnak’s defense has been good since Mendo took over with his 5-2-2-1 formation, but one would think he’d still run with his absolute best players at all times.

The offense will be dangerous as usual with Boba of House Coldsteek (Striker) leading the way.   Boba’s been so good for so long, that it seems to hardly matter how much effort defenses put to stopping him, he still finds a way to score.    Even if there’s any semblance of success slowing him down, Boba can just let Varner of House Patracks (Right Forward) shoot instead.   Varner still tries too hard to be ever so precise with his shots, but his strong leg is nothing to sniff at.   Silagnak should once again either lead or at least be near the lead in goals scored.

You’d think this was just another year in the kingdom’s toughest city, with the team and formation looking much as it has the last several years.   However, there is an unusual energy that’s been noticed coming from the players during training camp.   Most athletes respect their coaches, but it really feels like the collective team is pushing harder than before, perhaps acknowledging the limited window of time to win that elusive title for Mendo (and Borky) is probably closing, and soon.  Will this finally be the year the Black and Blues win it all?

...Or should we say, the Black and Purples?  Having to come up with a second jersey was annoying to team owner Shonnie of House Bochwiller.  After injuring his knee, he noticed later on that his name was almost black and purple from the bruises.   Figuring it fit with the team's aesthetics anyway, he decided on a purple shirt with black collar and cuffs over black pants.   The new jerseys certainly stand out and the fans love them so far!  They'd love a League Championship more, but one step at a time, right?
Petorvale: (Hammers) (Owner: Benwah of House Ailian) (Manager: Hammen of House Tong) (Formation: 4-4-2): The defending champions have plenty to live up to, having dominated in ways never before seen last year, when everything clicked perfectly.   Any hopes of a similar result took a huge hit in the offseason.   Garrend of House Jackleton’s (Left Forward) temper had blown over during the Year 69 King’s Cup Semifinal when he let Chalmblaank’s Matrack of House Cattlebottle’s antics get to his head.   Having exploded, fists a-blazing at Matrack, Garrend had caused a huge controversy when several fans got injured during the scuffle.  Worse for the young man, he was pointed out by several witnesses as the one who had punched the relative of King Mikelangel III.   Given the king’s fury over the incident and the meetings that followed between him and the Avornian Football Committee, there was plenty of speculation as to what would happen.  It was widely believed that there was a real threat to Garrend that he might possibly be permanently banned from playing football ever again, given the nature of the fight, the fact that it was the 2nd time he had physically lashed out at a player in just his 1st season, and the politics involved regarding who was hurt (fair or not).  

After nearly an entire month of discussions, the verdict was in.   Garrend would not be suspended forever, but he would be punished dearly.   In addition to being banned from participating in any team activities for Year 70, he also was sentenced to serve as the injured noble’s personal servant for the rest of Year 70’s and 71’s offseasons.   Also, due to the recent escalation of the two fanbases’ violent behavior towards each other, the Petorvale and Chalmblaank games against each other will be played on a neutral site, to keep those fans as far apart as possible.   Losing a home game stinks, but losing Garrend for an entire year really hurts Petorvale’s offense.   While Svontal of House Dors is still the superstar striker that he is, (coming off of a record setting performance and all) experts point out that in the couple of years before Garrend debuted, the Hammers offense only scored around an average amount of goals.   It’s true that Ceecil of House Ackerberry (Right Center Midfielder), the humorously round headed guy that’s already balding badly despite being in his 20s has long been a useful offensive asset, but beyond him, Svontal doesn’t have nearly as much help as he would like.

It'd be a bit surprising if Petorvale’s defense was quite as dominant as it was last year, but the days of hoping to survive by shootouts are over.  Cooma of House Niccagua (Goalkeeper) was stellar last year.  He's put a little weight on, but should still be very good.   It helps having Norty of House Peaweedle (Left Centerback) and Zephyr of House Emmonds (Right Fullback) defending Cooma.   Zephyr was highly promising as a rookie, with excellent footwork to steal footballs away from offenses and strong enough to push them around if that fails.  There’s real hope that he could someday develop into one of the top five defenders in Avornia, regardless of Division or Position.

Overall, the Hammers took one heck of a blow, losing a budding star forward for the year.   Nonetheless, Hammen of House Tong (Manager) has done what he can to keep the team positive.   A strategist as wise as he is wide, Hammen is easily one of the best managers in Avornia and already promoted another player from his Youth Academy to replace Garrend.   Though that player is probably not ready just yet for the big time, Hammen will do his best to coach him up.   Petorvale will face some serious pressure from the competition in their quest to become the first repeat champion in several years.   Silagnak is always a threat.   Leorux has improved more than ever.  Hanuna is well coached.   Tomen usually over-achieves.   And of course, Chalmblaank… hated Chalmblaank did finish in 2nd last year and is just as desparate as Petorvale is to finish above their rival.   It’s going to be a intense season for sure!

Speaking of intense, the Hammers' new alternate kit is quite a departure of their normal set.   Wearing a black shirt with no stripes at all, Petorvale's new secondary kit looks pretty intimidating, or at least that's what their owner, Benwah, was trying to go for.   Whether the look works or not, at least Petorvale is trying something interesting with their alternate.

NEXT: 2nd Division Year 70 Review

How do you think your favorite team will fare?   As always, C + C is welcomed!

Last edited by Stickman (1/24/2023 7:29 pm)

1/29/2023 10:52 am  #42

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 70, 2nd Division, Season Review

Going into the inaugural season of the Avornian Football League’s 2nd Division, the expectation going in was that… there really weren’t any expectations.   Nobody was sure who would win the division and become the first team to be promoted into the 1st Division.   Would it be Earch FFC or Jahnsel United, the clubs that had just been demoted the previous year?  Could a recent Federation of Avornian Football league champion winner like Rammsten or Forest Rangers? Or maybe a complete wildcard like Meshalketh or Elkstrom?
Earch City: It wouldn’t be Earch City, that’s for sure, who failed to win until Week 4 (the last team in the 2nd Division to earn any points, though not the last to win).  They were ineffective all around, finishing in last place in goals scored, goals allowed (not to mention in last place in general).  Even worse, Earch City would lose both of their games to hated rival Earch FFC, though they were competitive in both 2-1 results.   While the Commoners did have a decent little rebound midway into the season, earning 11 points from Weeks 4-10 (3-2-2 record), that was the only run of good fortune Earch City would have in Year 70, ultimately being eliminated from the 2nd Division Championship in Week 15. 

The problem was discipline, or a lack of, being the most penalized team in the 2nd Division.   This was problematic, especially in the Penalty Box, 8 of the 32 goals Earch City allowed were from Penalty Kicks alone.   Many of Earch City’s woes can be blamed specifically on Dabu of House Namacka (Player Captain and Center Forward), who never got on his team enough over dumb mistakes made during the season.    His laissez faire approach absolutely failed the Commoners and it’s not like he was all that good of a player either.    While still a great ball handler, he’s gotten slower and weaker over the years, which prevented him from ever taking over games the way he used to for Earch FFC years ago.   

Ultimately, Fiddick of House Assaburn (Owner) is likely going to have to eventually remove Dabu as player captain and hire a full time manager.   He’s always been a loyal guy, but in sports, loyalty isn’t always welcomed when there’s games to be won.  For his part, one has to wonder how much longer Dabu will continue to play football, being so ineffective a player anymore.   In any case, this was a rotten year for the brown team and their fans can’t wait to forget about this season.
Elkstrom: Eleven weeks into the season, the Rapids were looking like the surprise of the year, in either division.   Expected to be generally terrible, Elkstrom instead shot out to a remarkably great start, being in sole possession of 1st place after Week 3 by one point, being tied for 1st after Week 7, and even by Week 11, they were still just one point behind 1st place (5-2-4 Record) despite having almost no talent on the team.   Somehow, Korb of House Hilloppolo’s (Manager) strategy of all out offense blitzes was working, most shockingly effective in a 6-0 shellacking over Jahnsel United (leaving Jackrabbit’s owner, Ryne of House Ewickson, to loudly announce that he’d never been more embarrassed with his team than at that point).  Tum of House Leven (Right Fullback) was a big part in getting those offense drives started.   After somewhat roughly stealing the ball from the opponent (and when his behavior didn’t result in a penalty), Tum would launch the ball far into the other side of the field even before his teammates had turned around to start dashing towards the other goal.  If they got enough of a jump, a goal would usually result.   It seemed that Elkstrom just might find a way to sneak into the 1st Division after all.  

That would have been nice for the usually inebriated fanbase to see their figurative small boy slay the proverbial giant.  However, as often happens in reality, the giant would stomp the small boy flat in a hurry.   Over the second of the season, teams would adjust their gameplans to better deal with the Rapids’ attempt at blitzing their goals.   That preparation would ruin Elkstrom’s offense, which would only score four more goals in the final seven games, as the team would only earn one measly point the rest of the year.   This resulted in the team collapsing from a tie for 2nd place all the way down to 9th in just under two months, barely finishing ahead of Earch City in the Divisional Standings. 

Ultimately, this was for the fans a heartbreaking season, but in truth this was a very predictable result, with the village’s tiny size and lack of player depth.   One has to wonder if the Rapids would have been better off stinking for the entire year rather than start so strongly, giving the Elkstrom faithful unrealistic delusions of grandeur (not that they’d know what that phrase meant).  Still, Jatson of House Hilloppollo (Owner), if he can be objective, has to be proud of the efforts his little brother made as manager, to even be a contender for nearly 2/3rd of the season is no mean feat and it’s a sign that with more talent developed from Elkstrom’s Youth Academy, perhaps they could be a force to be reckoned with in Year 71.
Sporting Club: The Athletics tried their best, keeping competitive for much of the season, before ultimately fell behind in the 2nd half of the year, eventually being eliminated after Week 15.   What really killed their chances was a seven-game run from Weeks 9 through 15, when they failed to win a single match, (a record of 0-4-3 for 4 points).   For comparison, the League Champions earned 17 points in that timeframe.  Statistically, Sporting was a pretty average club, finishing or tying in 6th in the 2nd Division in goals scored, allowed, and differential, which makes their 8th place in the Divisional Standings feel slightly unfair.   In truth, with the huge cluster of teams that finished between 3rd and 8th, Sporting easily could have finished near the top of the standings with just a couple more wins.  In only they had pulled ahead in a couple of those ties or perhaps tied one of the close losses they experienced during their winless drought…

Jaxson of House Dharbell (Right Center Midfielder) did his best to lead the troops, but was handicapped when he missed several weeks near the end of the year with a back injury sustained after a bad fall when he flipped over another player while trying for a header.   Even from the sidelines, he did his best to issue commands, to mediocre levels of success.   One player he’s been having trouble controlling is Shuka of House Erlong (Left Centerback), the highly physical, but cheap player on defense.   Shuka’s pretty sharp and generally knows when to try to push his luck on pushing others around when defending, but also has been called out on multiple occasions when he blatantly shoved players that were in danger of running past him with nobody else left to defend the goal.    Jaxson’s been a bit uptight about those penalties and the two have argued with each other on multiple occasions regarding Shuka’s style.  Keep tuned on this development.

While Sporting Club will no doubt be disappointed with their placement in the standings, they appeared to have played better than that during Year 70, implying that if they can get some upgrades in a few positions, they could be in line for a big jump next year.
Meshalketh: The Wraiths were probably a bit lucky to have finished as high as 7th place, especially with a dearth of talent and after a dreadful five game run during Weeks 10 through 14, when they earned just one point and were outscored 2-11 during those games and finishing with a -4 goal differential, 2nd worst in the 2nd Division.    Like several other teams near the bottom of the standings, Meshalketh was formally eliminated in Week 15, but it sure felt like they were out of the running weeks before that point.  Meshalketh would finish with an unlucky looking (but symmetrical) record of six wins, losses, and draws each.   Considering that they only won two games by more than a single goal (winning those matches by exactly two goals), their record could and probably should have been much worse than it was.

Adiq of House Pentuna (Manager), brother of the recently retired Xaxi from Anjocca, tried his best with the limited talents around him.   Most would agree that he got more out of his team than expected, but no amount of game planning was going to save the Wraiths in Year 70.   Dacki of House Noto (Offensive Midfielder) was the only good player on the team and as has been the case for most of his career so far, defenses hounded him to the point where they were practically daring the other players to try to beat them.   The Wraiths would only score 22 goals, tied for the 2nd least in the division.  

It plenty clear that Meshalketh looks like they should be far from contending for promotion anytime soon, with only one player worth bragging about.  But with Adiq getting the team to overachieve somewhat (which is not the first time he’s managed this, one reason he’s lasted 5 full years with the team), with some more resources put into the Youth Academy and some luck, perhaps they could always pull an upset.   Fans just shouldn’t be expecting a miracle.
Jahnsel United: The Jackrabbits had been a big favorite by predictors to earn promotion right back after being relegated in Year 69.   Considering how competitive they had been last year, and with the large amount of upgrades to the roster thanks to their merger with the Federation’s Jahnsel club, that was a perfectly reasonable expectation.   However, despite Bili of House Yelbow (Center Forward) and Jimm of House Tamacka (Right Wing) being back to assist Derrec of House Smyt (Left Midfielder) on the offensive, nobody could have predicted how awful that unit would perform early in the year.  Jahnsel United was inexplicably shut out in four of their first six games, (most embarrassingly in a 6-0 rout when Elkstrom destroyed them) as the chemistry between the three was taking longer to come back.  There wasn’t any report of long standing animosity or anything either, the offense was just that bad.  However, things finally clicked in Week 7 onwards, as the offense would only fail to score just twice more during the year (one of those being a 0-0 draw with Naide in Week 14).  From that week onward, Jahnsel would experience several runs of streakiness, a four game winning run in Weeks 7-10, followed immediately by a three game losing streak in Weeks 11-13, and a three game winning stretch from Weeks 15-17. 

Once the offense got going, Bili and Jimm played very well, reminding Jackrabbits fans of when they were neigh unstoppable in Year 67.  Bili would lead the team with 10 goals and Jimm would stay healthy for the first time in years, which was very nice to see.  Unfortunately, Derrec of House Smyt is definitely slowing down, he would miss time late in the season with injuries.   It’s not looking like his career is going to last all that much longer, barring some career rebirth.  At least it’s all but guaranteed that whenever he does retire, Derrec will almost assuredly be promoted to become Jahnsel United’s first full time manager.  The defense wasn’t anything special.   While Nedham of House Velcross played reasonably well, there was a small controversy for poor Casby of House Danners that caused him to miss nearly half the season.   Due to his immense popularity with the ladies, Casby’s always had women fighting over him.   However, he had never had any try to claim that he had impregnated them before, yet two different women would claim he did just that on the night of the Harvest Dance.  Worse, one of them was already married, the husband going ballistic, attacking Casby, injuring his knee and knocking him out of the last 8 games.  The controversy would end decisively, as it was eventually proven that he didn’t even attend the Harvest Dance this year.    Casby would state that he actually got married that very night miles away from the festival, (his new wife and a local pastor would confirm this), meaning his attacker and accusers wasted their time (all would spend various amounts of time in local jails as punishment for the assault and lies).  The unfortunate part was that Casby had been having a career year, showing growth and a newfound patience that kept him in position more often in games and blowing coverage far less often.

Eliminated after Week 16, United will definitely rue their poor start, but it has to be a bit encouraging to know that the team got it together for the most part after that point.  6th place in the Divisional Standings is the highest they’ve finished since they won the Avornian Football League in Year 67, so perhaps it’s a sign of positivity to come.  If the star players can stay healthy (and in Derrec’s case, hopefully can bounce back to his usual level of play), there’s plenty of reason that fans can dream of once again playing in the 1st Division soon.
Naide: The early part of the season was ugly for the Cardinals.  Only earning five points in seven weeks, Naide had already been embarrassed by their owner, Artchen of House Villasammahl (Owner).  The emotional businessman had publicly humiliating himself by plopping to the ground in a temper tantrum after a loss (Rockstan, the ”Manager” of the team, had failed to notice the meltdown coming in time to shoo Artchen away before everyone in the stadium had seen it).   It wasn’t even that Naide was uncompetitive, they had just had some bad breaks so far (one of the losses was directly contributed to the referees missing a blatant penalty).   Things would get better for the team, as they’d go on a 5-2-1 (17 points) run over the next eight weeks to keep their faint championship chances alive, though that would end in a Week 16 loss to Meshalketh. 

Leading the team as the unofficial manager, Syman of House Dilson (Center Midfielder) might just be one of the absolute best footballers in all of Avornia.   Having a stellar season, Syman would lead the team in assists and even also in goals despite being a midfielder and also be responsible for ending several opposing drives with excellent body positioning to intercept passes.   Without him, Naide would probably never have had a chance to finish in 5th place in the 2nd Divisional Standings.  The tragic thing is, he doesn’t get any credit from the fans for his leadership skills, as they think Rockstan is running the show and thus deserves more credit for the team’s turnaround.   Not that Syman would care, he’s a modest guy that just wants to help the team win no matter how he does it.   

The Cardinals’ slow start definitely caused them to never really have a chance at promotion into the 1st Division, but while Syman is the only truly noteworthy player at this time, the team does play really well collectively.   If goal differential made a difference, Naide would have finished in 2nd, an indication that they could make the jump up in the standings next year with more luck, or at least a better start to Year 71.   Now if only Artchen could keep his wits about him and not be such a huge distraction…
Shadoma: No other team in the 2nd Division seemed to have had more of a tale of two halves quite the way Shadoma did.   The first half of the season was positively dreadful, as the Desert Roses won just one game in that stretch, getting outscored 9-17 in those games and earning just 6 points, good for last place in the standings.   A funny thing would happen at the midway point of the year though.  Desperate for a spark, Momo of House Chadrack (Manager) decided to gamble by promoting youthful goalkeeper Wilosauro of House Cen from the Youth Academy.  Short, at 5’8”, Wilosauro may be very short for the position, but he’s a very quick and athletic guy.  While Momo’s motivation was originally just to give Wilosauro some experience to prep him in case he proved to be ready to go by Year 71, he performed far better than anybody expected him to.   It helped that the offense finally got going too, which allowed Shadoma to pull off a remarkable turnaround.   Winning the next six games, Shadoma quickly moved back up the Divisional Standings, from 9th up to 3rd.   That’d be the highest the Roses would be at, as they would lose two of the last three games to fall to 4th place,  where they’d finish the season.   Eliminated in Week 16, they were realistically out of the running long before then, so ultimately their final result has to be seen as a positive result.

Hansa of House Yahas (Left Forward) played better and better as the year went on, scoring 11 goals and generally keeping his cool (though he definitely has a problem with blowing up occasionally when he feels he gets fouled but no call gets made).   Bogley of House Aevia (Right Center Midfielder) was a great assistant, scoring a couple of far away goals and being a great option for when Hansa couldn’t get clear space right by the goal.   Overall, Shadoma’s offense was really impressive considering how badly the year had started for them.  The defense besides Wilosauro isn’t anything special still, but at least Momo got them to tighten things up a bit, improving their positional awareness to avoid huge drives from occurring so easily.  

The Desert Roses’ up and down season was interesting to watch, but the real test will be next season.   Can Shadoma play good football for an entire year?   If so, they could make a run at promotion, as there are some very good set pieces on the team that would allow them to not only earn a place in the 1st Division, but probably have a good chance at staying there for a while.
Earch FFC: Earch FFC had been a favorite to earn promotion in Year 70.  Fueled by a fast start, when they won four of their first five games, even an odd four game tying streak wasn’t enough to keep them out of at least a tie for 1st Place in the Divisional Standings through the first ten weeks of the season.  An annoying loss to Elkstrom (who strangely had their number this year, winning both meetings) would knock them to one point back, but the Falcons would win their next three to keep pace with the red hot 1st place team.  Unfortunately, the Falcons’ flight would be cut short there, as the team would slump at the worst possible time, earning just 2 points in the final four weeks of the year.  They would be officially eliminated in Week 17, when streaking Shadoma shut them out 1-0.   It was no doubt a very disappointing way to end Year 70, as Falcon fans, still remembering the days when the team won the first two Avornian Football League championships, are now having to grasp with the reality that Earch FFC is going to be in a dogfight if they ever want to get back into the 1st Division to try for a third title.

Statistically, Earch FFC performed well.  The new offensive scheme with Aili of House Fendeleeni (Hole Striker) and Rhantony of House Vivilyn (Striker) played well.  Rhantony played better, as he had worked on his spatial awareness, learning when he drive into the penalty box to try and score and when to revert to passing the football back to Aili for him to take the shot.  Aili definitely gave defenses fits with his dribbling.   Ryckard of House Greaza (Manager) did a phenomenal job with the defense and it shows, the team only allowing 23 goals, good for a tie for 4th best, which is a huge improvement considering they had been allowing 30 or more goals each of the last two years.  Beenju of House Namacka (Left Fullback) is definitely one of the reasons for this, as his aggressive play style and willing to play dirty definitely made life harder on offenses.    He did get caught a few more times committing penalties than Ryckard would have liked to see, but there’s no denying Beenju was a huge help to the unit.   Hobbs of House Vinicus (Left Centerback) played fine enough.  It’s looking like the early promise he displayed as a rookie will never fully come back, but this was his best season since that year.   

The big problem for the team was its team captain, Neuten of House Claybill (Right Center Midfielder).   Neuten is a good player, especially on defense, but it was worrying to see him almost refuse to work with the non-nobles of the team, at times refusing to pass them the football in search of someone he liked more on more than one occasion.   With Earch FFC now embracing non-nobles playing for the team, he’s going to have to get over his prejudice against them if he wants to keep being their leader.   Aside from him, though, Year 70 has to be considered a nice bounce back year after finishing in last place last year.   It’d have been nice of course to have been promoted, but this is the first season that the Falcons have moved up in the standings, every year prior had been a drop off (from 1st to 5th, to 7th, to 12th).  Ryckard had a nice first season as manager, now it’s time to see what he can do to get his team over the hump.
Rammsten: The Bighorns played well for most of Year 70, being constantly near the top of the Division Standings, within 2 points of 1st place for the first three months of the season.  They even briefly took over 1st in Week 11 after a 2-1 victory over Jahnsel United.  Unfortunately, that would be the first and only time where Rammsten would have sole possession of 1st place, as the surging Forest Rangers would quickly pass them the next week and never look back again, winning many games in a row while Rammsten was tying or losing them.  The Bighorns were officially eliminated in Week 16, though they’d at least pass Earch FFC to earn 2nd place in the Divisional Standings and only finished four points out of the top spot behind the Rangers. 

The Bighorn defense was every bit as difficult to break as expected.   Doog of House Tapperton (Goalkeeper) had another great year, his reflexes being extremely good.   Even getting the ball close enough to shoot was difficult, with giant Kackeron of House Baoba (Left Halfback)  breaking up several long passes from offenses with his huge jumps.   Nobody was winning headers against Kackeron this year.   Ultimately, the defense allowed just 19 goals all season, the lowest in the 2nd Division.  The offense was a weak point, though.  Tarky of House Aglong (Center Forward) did his best, but just doesn’t have a lot of talent around him to work with on offense.  Defenses hounded him all year long, forcing him to at least attempt to pass the ball to his teammates, but didn’t usually have anyone near him, forcing turnovers.   The 23 goals Rammsten scored was in the bottom half of the division, it’s an area that definitely needs improvements next season.

Overall, the Bighorns can feel good enough about their performance, the defense being so tough keeps them in most games.   If the offense ever improves, Rammsten will be a heavy favorite to earn promotion next year.  Dove of House Clissard (Manager) did pretty well in his first season as a manager, keeping the team disciplined and his interesting formation definitely took some time for opponents to get used to.   Now to see if his eye for Youth Academy talents is as good as his eye for professional talent is.
Forest Rangers FC: The Rangers’ first half of the season wasn’t anything special to write home about, mostly turning in back and forth efforts of winning a game, then losing a game, winning two in a row, losing two in a row, drawing two in a row.   Still, after ten weeks, Forest Rangers were still just two points back from first place.  With several teams mostly clustered together, they were still easily within range to earn promotion.  They just needed a spark to really get going.   Perhaps noticing that, (plus seeing Naide coming to town for a Week 11 matchup, a team who at that time was tied with Rangers for 5th in the Divisional Standings), Slaide of House Booshka gave his troops a highly passionate speech before that game, urging them to play with some fire.   Getting the message, Rangers stomped Naide 3-0 and indeed caught fire.   Including the Naide game, Rangers would win their next six straight games, outscoring their foes 14-4 during that stretch.   Although they disappointingly lost 3-0 in Week 17 (to Jahnsel United, who both both of their meetings), Earch FFC’s lost meant that Forest Rangers had won the 2nd Division anyway and had earned the right to become the 1st team to ever win promotion to the 1st Division! 

The offense, led by Canton of House Bendakic (Center Forward) was impressive, leading the division with 28 goals scored.  Canton would lead the entire 2nd Division in goals scored, with 13, made easy due to his elite level skills at create open spaces for himself with his misdirections while dribbling the football.   He was so good at this that he even fooled several goalies throughout the year, which would allow him an easy chip shot to the net.   It’ll be interesting to watch if he can do this with 1st Division goalies, but if so, it may not be long before he’s considered the best forward in the sport.  Vocher of House Ancha’s (Goalkeeper) hyper aggression at running after the ball when he came even slightly near the goalie box was always a tense sight to see.   However, he proved to be quite good at judging when he could get the football and when he should stay, helping keep the Rangers’ goals allowed stat low (just 21 allowed).  

Forest Rangers are going to be watched very closely next season in the 1st Division.  While a bit short on star talents, they’re a very well managed team and the stars they do have are in some of the most important positions in football.   Local fans (not to mentions fans from all the teams in the 2nd Division) are hopeful that the Rangers can compete at the top level (and won’t just get relegated right back to the 2nd Division, as that’d look pretty awful).   In truth, the Rangers will probably have a lot of pressure on them to perform well, the legitimacy of the 2nd Division will have a lot riding on their success (or failure).   Stay tuned…

Next: Avornian Football League, Year 70, 1st Division, Season Review

Last edited by Stickman (1/29/2023 10:53 am)
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