Press Box Report: Tall, RFB win season opener

Royal Francs Borains got their season underway in Belgium with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over UR La Louviere Centre in front of their home crowd. Maki Tall came off the bench early in the second half to provide the assist for the game winner soon after stepping onto the field.

Although the rest of the Belgian leagues already got underway weeks ago, the third division started its campaign this weekend, with Tall’s Walloon side making the most of it at the Stade Robert Urbain. Mahel Valadas came off the bench to score the first, and that was followed by another from Houssen Abderrahmane to seal the win.

The contest showed some of the rustiness and trepidation that is expected in the first game of the season, with both sides looking to find their game-feet. RFB was the first to mount a threatening attack on the goal, but the seventh minute effort by Axel Lauwrensens was swung at so wildly that it would have ended up in the top deck behind the posts, if there was a top deck or even a tribune there.

The visitors actually fired their first attempt on target a half dozen minutes later when Yassin Aydouni whacked the ball from the top of the D, but the effort was half-hearted and Maxime Vandermeulen easily scooped it up. The small handful of visiting fans would be forgiven for thinking that their side was about to grab the ball by the horns because soon afterwards there followed another shout at goal. However, after dancing around defenders, Amadou Ba blasted his attempt over the crossbar.

The next threat also came from the visitors when Yann Nkou pulled the trigger in the box but saw Vandermeulen claim this one too.

Closing in on the hour mark, a sloppy pass in the middle of the field gifted the ball to Ba. The Wolves #9 put his head down, and charged down the field directly into the danger zone. He was chased by a pair of defenders who did just enough to block the shot that could have meant bad news for the home team.

To be honest, RFB were well in this game but posed no real first-half threats to their guests, and let themselves down on several occasions by more than a few sloppy passes and imprecise finishing.

Lauwrensens was having a half decent half on the wing and posed some problems to the visitors’ defense with his dribbling skills, but his shooting foot let him down on a couple of occasions. More dangerously to the guests, it was Lilian George’s cross into the box that found Donovan Habbas in position, but before the French midfielder could direct it towards goal, Wolves keeper Maxence Dannet picked it off the top of his head.

With the last minutes ticking away to the half-time break, the RFB fans thought their luck had changed when Lauwrensens, who signed this summer from Union St-Gilloise, charged into the 18-yard box between a pair of defenders and unceremoniously hit the ground. As he looked up, he didn’t see the referee pointing to the spot but instead pulling out a yellow card for what he obviously thought was a dive. Having had enough, the young ref blew the whistle, thus ending the first half.

The visitors kicked off the second half, but it was the hosts to take the initiative and go on the attack first almost immediately, winning a quick corner. However, soon it was down at the other end of the field, leading to a Wolves’ free kick from 22 yards out. Luckily for the visitors, after a bit of pinball action in the box, the danger was cleared.

That didn’t stop the pesky Ba tormenting the defense again and getting off a shot that was blocked. In the spirit of reciprocity, Alessio Cauffriez, RFB’s #9, tried the same move at the other end but with the same result.

About 14 minutes into the second half, RFB coach Dante Brogno’s men began to look the more dangerous of the two squads, and a corner kick to Willem Allouache’s head should have been more of a threat instead of a wild attempt over the cross bar.

Brogno felt it was time to try something different and so made a double substitution at the 61 minute mark, bringing on Maki Tall and Mahel Valadas to liven things up. Some will call him a genius because only two minutes passed before RFB took the lead thanks to the two new additions to the game.

After some goalmouth action, Tall’s initial attempt didn’t hit the mark. However, when the ball found its way back to him seconds later, just to the right of the goal, he calmly headed it across to Valadas, who struck it hard and true, and right past Dannet, who couldn’t get a hand to it.

The American looked to add another assist several minutes later for the same goal scorer, but this time he wasn’t as composed on the ball and the chance never materialized.

Around the 65th minute the D.C.-born forward was at it again but this time Tall saw his shot blocked, earning RFB a corner kick. From this corner that was delivered squarely into the box, Abderrahmane got a glancing header to it, just enough to redirect it into the goal and leaving Dannert to pick another one out of his net.

The visitors did their best to get back into the game after finding themselves at a two-goal deficit, but all the momentum had swung the other way and their few chances amounted to nothing. The green defensive wall was on-form on the day, and helped their keeper to confirm his first clean sheet of the new campaign as the final whistle blew.

YA caught up with Tall after the game to get his take on the afternoon’s action.

“I’m tired right now,” the former USA U23 player said. “I had a lot of action in the game. I got an assist, which is good for the morale and we got the win, which is a good way to start the season.”

Watching from the bench in the first half, the American made his assessments of the play so far, and when it was time to come on, he felt that he knew what he had to do.

“This is a very physical league. You just have to find the space, try to analyze in the first half if you’re not playing, so I think I did a pretty good job coming in and finding the weaknesses (to exploit). I did my scouting from the bench and it was pretty good to get the win off of that.”

When asked about the immediate impact the two substitutes made, he said,

“Mahel and I were talking while we were warming up, and we said that we need to score, maybe assist and in the first action we did both so, it was good. He’s one of my good friends on the team so I’m happy for him also. “

On his chance at scoring, Tall said that “maybe I should have hit the ball better. Maybe next game.” Royal Francs Borains currently have an opening on their schedule this coming week, as they are still waiting to hear who their opponents will be in the next round of the Belgian Cup. As for league action, they will be at home once again on September 26 when they welcome Dessel Sport to the Borinage.


Michael Adubato

The old man of Yanks-Abroad, having been around since the very beginning in 2004, Known as the resident Belgian expert since that’s where he has lived for a couple of decades. Over the years he has interviewed Nats such as Kasey Keller, Brian McBride, Oguchi Onyewu, Jozy Altidore and Tim Weah, to name a few. When not working the day job, he can often be found in stadiums around Europe, watching games from the top flight to the lower leagues. To prove that he is not just a pretty face, Mike received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland and a Masters from the University of Oklahoma. Boomer Sooner! On a non-soccer note, Adubato has just released a book of poetry from his travels, Missing the Exit, published by Broken Keys Publishing in Ottawa, Canada. So that must make him the YA poet laureate! You can grab your copy on, order online and pick it up and Barnes & Noble or get an e-copy at various outlets.

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