AIK in USA: AIK 2 – Chivas USA 0
In the first of three pre-season matches in Portland, AIK defeated Chivas USA 2-0. A great goal from Viktor Lundberg opened scoring in the 41st minute from a Lalawelé Atakora assist. The 21-year old midfielder then scored a fine goal of his own in the 52nd minute to provide the final scoreline and give the Swedish visitors a clean victory. Ivan Turina was hardly troubled before the final fifteen minutes when Chivas became desperate and shot repeatedly.
AIK used a straight forward 4-4-2 with the aforementioned Turina in goal, 20-year old David Fällman at right back, Martin Lorentzson at left back while Niklas Backman and Per Karlsson were the central defenders. In the midfield, Atakora played wide on the left opposite Daniel Gustavsson. Captain Daniel Tjernström most frequently sat deep and teamed with 18-year old Robin Quaison in central midfield. Crespo Kamara and Lundberg were the forwards with the latter often dropping deeper to receive the ball and initiate attack. Crespo held the ball up wonderfully but could never quite get his shots into dangerous spaces. Only in the 76th minute did Andreas Alm make his first substitution, removing Quaison in favor of Robert Åhman-Persson. Two minutes later Crespo came off for Kwame Karikari. Finally, Fällman was replaced by 18-year old Sal Jaborteh in the 85th minute.
In regards to the relative youth of his AIK side, Alm said after the game, “We have, out of twenty-five players, thirteen that were born in the 1990s. So everybody’s young. Lundberg, who scored the [first] goal and had an assist, he was born in ’91, and he was good. Quaison, who was born in ’93, did really well.” In the early going, Quaison was able to get forward and aid in attack from the central midfield. He took AIK’s first shot of the match and was frequently involved in combinations with Crespo and Lundberg. That changed slightly in the final minutes of the half, according to Alm: “I think Chivas played well after our [first] goal. They had their short-passing game. I think Quaison was better in the second half because then they weren’t able to pass as much.”
It was his side’s stymying of Chivas’ short-passing game that impressed Alm the most: “I think they were searching for a short passing game and we didn’t allow that for the better part of the game. When we allowed it, they were quite good. They didn’t get any chances to score, I think, but they got off some shots from distance. I think we did it right to push it back on them in their half.” While Lundberg’s brilliant shot at the near post thrilled the several thousand in attendance just before half-time, Atakora’s goal in the early second half was the better of the two for the AIK manager. “The second goal was great. It was a good combination working all the way from the right side to the left side and then we get a shot on goal alone with the keeper. So that was a good goal for us,” Alm said.
Having mentioned at yesterday’s training session that no forwards had yet scored in five pre-season games, Alm was pleased to see such a tally finally recorded through Lundberg’s opener. Beyond the scoring, though, the manager was happy with his team’s performance, saying, “We were quite hard-working and organized. We didn’t let them have too many chances on goal.”
On the whole, AIK were the better side. They controlled possession for long spells of the match and had far more chances until Chivas started firing in the game’s final quarter hour. Among the most interesting match-ups on the night was Crespo trying to establish position and hold up the ball against the physical defending of 6’4″ Colombian defender John Valencia. The recently signed 32-year old battled with the 18-year old AIK striker with a stalemate the final result. Yet while Valencia was busy with Crespo, Lundberg and Atakora were able to spring free at various points. Elsewhere on the park, AIK were able to withstand the quick bursts of Chivas’ smaller, faster players. Michael LaHoud, Ryan Smith and Miller Bolaños were each exciting and dangerous, though ultimately contained when it came to making the final pass or taking a shot on target. As Quaison dropped back in the second half, the passing lanes exploited by Bolaños, in particular, were squeezed shut.
AIK nearly got its second goal just moments after half-time when Backman headed a corner kick past Dan Kennedy but the clever flick bounced off the inside of the far post before trickling back to the sprawling goalkeeper. Minutes later Atakora’s bending goal from the left side effectively ended the game in favor of the Gnaget.
Chivas’ best chances came as AIK tired toward the end of the match. Alm would not blame jet lag for his side’s late struggles and praised Chivas for their tactical changes: “They took out no. 9 [Juan Pablo Ángel] and put in no. 58 [Cesar Romero] and I thought he was really good. Also, their three attackers came more central. So I think they had a good last quarter hour.”
“And we were jet lagged,” Alm added, smiling.