Everyone knows what they say about a 2-0 lead in soccer. We've all seen examples of the losing team coming back from a two-goal deficit to draw or win. Queue up Sunday's UPSL Division 1 game at Deportivo U2 FC.
Our first half left a lot to be desired. We found possession but often couldn't keep it, and we tried to play over the defensive line despite there not being enough space to do so. Deportivo went up about 15 minutes into the match via a quickly worked counterattack. From a throw-in deep in their half, they played quickly between three players to open up a passing lane. One long ball down the center caught our defense unaware and their forward was through on goal. Before anyone could blink, the ball was in the back of the net.
We regained some control and were building momentum before an enforced injury stoppage brought the game to a halt. Rather unfortunately, their forward over-extended on a tackle attempt and suffered a muscle injury. He tried to return but ultimately had to be subbed off for good.
About two minutes before half, another counter saw Deportivo attacking through the center. An attempted cross into the box wasn't cleared. They pounced on the loose ball and tucked away a second. After getting back on the front foot, it was the kind of gut punch we could've done without.
A lengthy halftime talk got the guys pushing collectively in the right direction. There was no real change in tactics (the application altered but not the plan) and only one sub (Enrique Torres on for Jakob Leonard following an ankle injury).
The team came out with renewed vigor. Around the 56th minute, Cooper Roberts was on hand to assist John Wilke for his first goal of the season. Right as the goal went in, Matt Folden came on for his club debut, replacing Dalton Hoepner. Kaden Alcindor was pushed up into Hoepner's midfield spot while Folden took his place at LB.
We found our second only three minutes after the first goal. A peach of a cross from Max Walters was headed in by AJ Mittelsteadt for his third goal of the season (and Max's second assist). The Madison-born, UWEC-based duo have now combined for a goal twice this season.
Chuck Rogers came on for Coop at about the 65th minute, and Oscar Fernandez-Hydzik replaced Dylan Burk in the midfield on 75 minutes. Both subs had the desired impact; we now had fresh legs up against tired ones. Their respective introductions revitalized the team.
Deportivo threatened once or twice in the second half, but we felt we had the game in our grasp. We stayed on the front foot and held much of the possession, and our efforts were rewarded less than 10 minutes from time. Alcindor was fouled inside the area, and Walters stepped up to the spot and buried his penalty. It's the captain's first goal for Bateaux, and it couldn't have come in a bigger moment.
An ugly moment occurred not long after the goal when an opposing player used a racial slur within earshot of several of our players and the referee. The referee was quick to react, brandishing the red card immediately. No one on the sideline knew what happened until after the game had finished. We'll be following up with the league this week to understand how this will be handled moving forward.
The last few minutes of the game passed by without a flourish. We cleared our lines when required and held the ball in the attacking half to kill the remaining time. Three second half goals and some strong play on display, we felt we deserved the points today and were pleased to get them.
We host 18/26 Academy of Minneapolis in UPSL Division 1 action Saturday, May 20. The game is set for Bollinger Fields (Field 5, SW corner of the grounds). Entry to the game is a suggested donation of $5. We hope to see you there!