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A Two Month Journey Through Europe


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With just two months until FM22 comes out, I'm taking a two-month journey through Europe and see where things take my manager, Peter Gobel, from the Netherlands.

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On the outskirts of Munich lies the 3.Liga club of SpVgg Unterhaching who are going to the chance on our brand new manager with his very first job.

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The facilities are decent and way above what a brand new manager should have at his disposal.  The club sits in 17th place just inside the drop zone.  The last decade has seen the club bounce between the third and fourth tier.

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The club is consistently losing money.

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One of the big reasons that the club is losing money is the first squad is bloated with useless players.  Some on big contracts.  Some on small contracts.  There's some potential with some players who too old for the U19 squad that could be loaned out.

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Striker/Left Forward Stephen Hain is our best player.  Ideally, I'd like to use him as a left winger but his passing is better than his crossing so he may play as a deep-lying forward and bringing the attacking midfielders into the play.

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Defensive midfielder Niclas Sterlin is our top young player.  Can play a variety of roles in the midfield and is under contract through next season so I'll be looking to lock him up to a longer deal.

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We've got some good players sitting in the U19 team.

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And more good young players are on the way.

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Leagues that I'll be touring in these two months.

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January-February 2021

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We've done the job, for the most part, against the teams we are battling against for the relegation slots. Wins over Magdeburg, Zwickau and Saarbrucken along with a road draw against Meppen.  1860 Munich were the only team to take all three points from us in the relegation battle.

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It's still a true relegation fight with six teams all within five points of each other.

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March-May 2021 - Devastation on Match Day 38

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We entered the last match day on an inconsistent run of form.  Our defense was bad which made our average goalkeeper look even worst.  We were the masters of watching just about every shot on target go into the net during some matches.  A lot of getting two goals down and coming back to win or getting two goals up and giving away the match.  We entered the last match day in 17th place and occupying the last relegation slot.  Zwickau were tied with us on 41 points but had a superior goal difference.  Hallescher played Bayern Munich II on Sunday May 23, 2021 and sat in 15th place with 43 points.  We needed a win and Hallescher loss to move into 16th place and stay in the 3.Liga.  We did not get that.  We took an early lead on a penalty kick.  We gave away the lead on another piece of bad defending.  Both center backs went to the center forward leaving the winger wide open for a shot 20 yards out which he rifled into the top corner to tie the match.  We could not find the game winner.  Zwickau won to finish in 15th place.  Hallescher got the loss that we needed but stayed in 16th place and survived while we remained in 17th place and got relegated.

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I can't be that disappointed with my record.  We scored 26 points in 21 matches (1.23 points per match) and the team had only scored 16 points in the 17 matches (0.94 points per match) before I took over.  I was able to obtain my National C License before I was sacked by Unterhaching.  Let's see who, now, takes a chance on a manager with only 21 matches of experience and relegation to their name.

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Journey into the Czech Republic

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Fortuna nardoni Liga mid-table contender FK Varnsdorf have decided to gamble on a manager with just 21 matches of experience and a relegation on his resume.  I wouldn't say he struggled at Unterhaching but fell victim to a lot of teams performing just as well to avoid relegation.  Gobel turned down an offer from Csakvari from the Hungarian Second Division.

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Kouril is our best player and our team captain.  He looks like a good player to provide a steady hand on the backline while transitioning our defense into offense going forward.  Now, if he would only sign a new contract.

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Harazim is a great kid to build our future offense around.  Good finishing and good pace for just a 15 year old.   

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July-August 2021: Early Season Success

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Only one loss in the early season schedule.  Dukia Prague got an early goal and we couldn't respond.  Advanced to the third round of the MOL Cup which I believe is the national cup competition.

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It's a tight race for the league title and the promotion playoff slots.  We will see how long we stay in the mix.

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September-October 2021: Halfway Home

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Our success has continued through out September and October.  We have moved into the league lead and have some daylight between ourselves and 2nd place 1. FK Pribram.  We have just three matches remaining until the winter break.  Hopefully, our momentum does not get stopped by the four month break.

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Defense leading the way with just four goals allowed in eight matches.

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November 2021-May 2022: Success in Czech Republic

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A couple of hiccups in March and early April saw us give up first place to Dukla Prague.  After a win in mid-April, we only gave up four points the rest of the way and passed Dukla Prague and pipped them for the league title by one point.

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Obviously, the board was delighted with the league title.

Youth Intake

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A deep class that I won't see develop except for David Franc who came into the first team right away.

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Stats

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Leading Goalscorer: RF Tomas Hykel (16)

Assist leader: RB Tomas Vengrinek (9)

Highest Average Rating: CB Martin Kouril (7.36)

 

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Wisla Krakow - Introduction

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Gobel heads to Poland to take over one of the most successful Polish club...Wisla Krakow - winners of 13th Ekstraklasa titles.  The club has two deep runs in Europe.  The first occurred in 1979 when they reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup before losing to runners-up Malmo.  They made another run in 2003 UEFA Cup reaching the Round of 16 before losing to semifinalist Lazio.  This is a club with a lot of potential and a great place to grow Gobel's reputation before heading back to more "mainstream" Europe.

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Last season, Wisla finished a disappointing 14th place just five points ahead of relegation.  The media thinks there is more to come from Wisla as we are picked to finish 11th this season.

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There are a lot of players in the first team squad.  It appears that is a function having just a U19 team below the senior team and no season team/U23 team.  The first task will be identify any deadwood and see if I can clear them out.  The next task will be identifying which young players will be better served going out on loan instead being a depth option for the senior team.  A lot of work to be done in terms of re-shaping the squad.

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Savic is described as a winger but with his player traits....he may fit my scheme better as an attacking central midfielder as opposed to a winger.

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Barylski is a true stay-at-home center back who lacks the pace to get forward in my scheme.  A little weak in the heading department but I need pacey wing players in my scheme so Barylski will slide to the inside of the formation.

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Thankfully, we are in sound financial shape.

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July-August 2022: Getting Our Feet Wet

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We started slow with only two goals in our five league games.  A shock 2-0 win against Legia spurred the offense.  The upside to the sluggish start is the defense has been solid outside of a three-goal outburst by Bruk-Bet.

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Solidly mid-table sitting in 8th place.  Not a bad place to be after eight of 34 league matches.  Top four teams go to Europe.  Champion = Champions League; 2nd and 3rd place = Europa League 1st Qualifying Round, 4th place = Europa Conference 1st Qualifying Round

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September-October 2022: Bad Beginning and End - Good Middle

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We are consistently inconsistent.  We show up for the big games but drop points to team that we should beat.  We opened the month of September with a pair of terrible losses before rebalancing ourselves in the cup which spurred a five-game unbeaten run.  Then the cup reared its head again and we weren't able to overcome an early 1-0 deficit and fell to GKS Tychy leaving us with just 19 league games in our season.

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The five-game unbeaten run helped us maintain our 8th place league standing that we held at the end of August.  It's looking like a season of mid-table inconsistency.  Not bad enough to fall into a relegation fight but not good enough to push for a lower tier European competition place.  That said, it's an improvement over last season's 14th place standing.

 

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November 2022-January 2023: Moving Up and Moving Out

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We had no games in the month of November due to the 2022 World Cup (won by England).  We played three mixed-bag friendlies after the break and that meh form bled over into our first game back against Lechia.  January was a great month for us.  Opened with a win against Jagiellonia and beat Cracovia.  This unbeaten run has seen us move up the table to 6th place.

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We are in a battle for the last European place and a trip to the Europa Conference but the last game of January has not been played.  I'll get to that in a minute.  But here's the middle of the season stats:

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The injured RF Yaw Yeboah leads the team with nine goals while left forward Stefan Safic leads with five assists.  Not gaudy numbers but we spread the ball around and get everyone involved.

This is why the last match of January was left unplayed.

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A couple of lower level Eredivisie jobs opened up in early January...VVV-Venlo and Willem II.  VVV went the interim manager route and didn't grant me an interview.  Willem II brought me in for an interview and about a week later offered me the job.  My time at Wisla:

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Willem II: An Introduction

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After the 2022 World Cup, Willem II has been an absolute tailspin.  They played four friendlies where they were punching WAY above their weight.  Nordsjaelland is always a solid Danish team.  Willem II has no business playing Real Madrid in a friendly.  I don't care how much money they are offering.  Sparta Prague is also too good.  Lommel should have been a win but morale was shot after Madrid and Prague and they returned from Belgium with a 2-0 loss.  Then, the league matches began and they claimed one point from a possible 18.  The offense looked terrible.  The defense did the best they could but it's hard to win when you don't score.

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The club has won three league titles but the last one was in 1955 and the Dutch Cup was last won in 1963.  We need to put some trophies in the case that aren't covered in dust and rust.

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The facilities are good and a new stadium is on the way.

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Before the post World Cup blues, Willem II were a mid-table side but have fallen into a relegation battle with Heerenveen (big surprise), Emmen, VVV and ADO.

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Llonch is a solid defensive midfielder especially for what we need to do.  We need a solid player at the back who will win the ball and start the transition from defense to offense.

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A Mexican attacking midfielder, who once we solidify a mid-table position, will move up to the first team. 

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The club is over the wage budget and bleeding money.  But, at the moment, the club is in a solid financial position.

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It appears that we have a solid crop of youngsters coming in.

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The squad has a lot of aging players on high wages that won't be coming back next season.  But our position is too shaky to move them out the door for younger talent.

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February-March 2023: Building Blocks In Place

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It took six matches for us to turn around our form.  We popped to a 1-0 win against Twente but suffered lots of road losses (Zwolle, Vitesse, and Ajax).  It took a win over 17th place Emmen for our fortunes to change.  We followed that up with a win at 2nd place AZ and then a 2-0 win at last place Cambuur.  Not the sexiest winning streak but a winning streak nonetheless and I'll take it.

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Our three-game winning streak has moved us up to 11th place but we only sit five points above the relegation playoff slots.  Our position isn't ideal but we have some margin for error in the last six matches of the season.

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April-May 2023: Solidly Mid-Table

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This is what I wanted to see out of Willem II when I took the job.  We won the games that we were supposed to as we beat ADO Den Haag, Groningen (who were struggling) and NAC.  A tough draw against Sparta and lost a pair of games to Feyenoord and PSV.  A 10 points out of a possible 18.  Not a bad run in to the end of the season.

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Ajax ran away the title with Feyernood joining them in the Champions League and PSV going to the Europa League with AZ going to the Europa Conference.  Cambuur had a tough season with just two wins out of 34 matches and just 12 points.  ADO go down with them while VVV, who didn't offer me an interview are stuck battling in the relegation playoffs while Willem II, who took a chance on me, finished the season in 11th place.

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xG confirms our 11th place.

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We have a lot of average players on this team and very few star players.

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Eight goals get you honor of being the team's top goalscorer.

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A very top heavy youth intake led by Croatian Goran Bejian.

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August-September 2023: Goalkeeping Woes

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We are beating who we are supposed to beat and losing to who we are supposed to lose.  The tough match to swallow was the 1-1 draw with last place De Graafschap.  It took a goal from substitute, Emre Eksi, to claim the draw.

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The resutls see us firmly in 8th place.  We aren't good enough to push the top teams in the league but we aren't bad enough to fall into a relegation battle.  Just a mid-table team looking to make some strides with the youngsters in the squad.

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Our goalkeeping is letting us down.  We pushed 19-year old goalkeeper Maarten Schut into the starting role a little earlier than expected due to an injury to last season's starter Martin Kotnik.  I may need to go to a rotation system with the two goalkeepers since Schut has proven that isn't quite ready for road matches against the top teams in the league.

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October-December 2023: Spiraling Down

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After an up-and-down month of October, things started to spiral downward in November and really went to crap in December.  After the Utrecht game, the players had stopped listening to me and we only had one goal in our last four matches.  The goalkeeping situation was only getting worse.

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We sit in 12th place but that was only due to our good early form.  On December 18, I signed my letter of resignation and left Willem II. 

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More losses than wins....never a good thing.  I was not out of work for long as another struggling Dutch club (this time with a better infrastructure) offered their managerial post to Peter Gobel.

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January-March 2024: Playing As Expected

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We suffered a bad beat against Dordrecht in the 3rd round of the Dutch Cup.  Took a 2-1 lead late in the game and then gave up the equalizer in stoppage time.  February was a tough month than featured a bad loss to Ajax which bled over into home matches against Feyenoord and Heracles.  March was a great month with three straight wins to solidify our position away from the relegation zone.

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Big gap between ourselves in 10th place and Sparta in 9th place.  But we are 11 points clear of the relegation zone with five matches remaining so we are basically safe.

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A very top heavy intake.

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April-May 2024: Time to Start Rebuilding

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We just aren't a team that contend for anything at moment.  We are too inconsistent and defense is very leaky.  The offense can disappear without any moment.  Just not good team.

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As you can see there are two divisions within the Eredivisie.  There is the top nine which are battling for Europe and there is the bottom nine where we reside.  The first goal is to bridge the 14-point gap between 9th and 10th place.  The second goal is to push for Europe.

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Even the computers think we are a flawed team.

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Look at all those average players.  A lot of deadwood to be culled from the roster over the summer.

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Summer 2024: Building and Climbing the Ladder

We invested a lot in the free and low cost transfer market to transform the Twente side and build some overall squad depth.

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We had very little depth in the midfield so the focus was there after some of our top central defense targets signed elsewhere.  Added some depth in the attack as well.

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The friendly schedule was light so we could build some confidence and get the new signings blended into the squad.  We got down early to RKC and switched from our 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 in the second half.  The club responded with two goals and we escaped with the victory.

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Twente lost it's partnership with Chelsea before I arrived.  I made a new one with Inter to make up for the loss.

The summer of 2024 brought the European Championships hosted by Germany and won by England.  England, now, hold both the European Championship and the World Cup.  The Netherlands fired their manager, Ron Jans, retired.  The Netherlands lost to Sweden, 2-1, in the 2nd round.  Jozef Danko, manager of AZ, resigned from AZ to accept the vacant Netherlands post.  AZ's club culture fit my manager (attacking, entertaining and high-pressing football) so I applied and got an interview.

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I take over after AZ lost, 2-1, to Monaco in the opening stage of the Champions League playoff and three days before a league match against Utrecht,

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August-September 2024: Lots of Matches

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Dealing with mid-week European matches has been tough adjustment for me.  I've been trying to rotate players in and keep them fresh but the downside has been the impact on our form.  We just can't get any consistent play.  I tried to play tight against Ajax and switched from the 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 DM and they just blew us out of the watch.  That form bled into the Rangers match before we could rebound against Vitesse and ADO.

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We sit in 8th place which isn't too bad but not where I want to be considering Twente is above us in the table and Willem II is only a couple positions below us in the standings.

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Picked up a nice little partnership which should help the club in the longer term by bringing in some French talent.

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October-December 2024: Tactic Changes and BOOM!

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In November, I made a slight switch from the 4-3-3 to a more attack-minded 4-2-3-1.  We just were not scoring the goals that I was looking for with the 4-3-3 and we needed a change.  Things have taken off with the 4-2-3-1.  21 goals in 8 matches that's almost three goals per match.  The defense has been solid too as we have allowed only four goals in those eight matches.

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We have shot up the table into 3rd place and are getting ready to enter the championship fight with Ajax and Groningen.

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We won a very balanced Europa League group and advanced to the 2nd Knockout Round.

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Above average across the board.  Keep in mind that the 1.06 goals conceded per game includes allowing six goals to Ajax early in the season.

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Calvin Stengs on the right wing has been a beast with 15 goals and nine assists.

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Golden generation incoming.  A lot to look forward to this season with AZ.

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