Photo provided by Evan Hong
We hosted Honduras Majors of Milwaukee in our first appearance in the USASA Region II Qualifying Cup. The winner was due to advance to face Vlora FC in the second round of the competition.
The game started off a bit cagey with both teams trying to find a way through. Honduras Majors opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a spectacular free kick from Julio Delcid. However, we equalized just five minutes later through David Ripplinger. The veteran forward latched on to a bouncing through ball, controlled it twice with his head, and slotted in at the far post under duress from the trailing defender. Half time unfortunately did not come soon enough as Honduras broke the tie a couple minutes before the end of the half. The goal was scored by Jake Wilkins.
Honduras then went ahead by two goals in the 54th minute through Luke Dubnicka. The winger was a presence all game long in the attack, and he showed great technical ability to round Jon Mullally in net and open up his shooting lane. The comeback was back on the cards as Ben Zumwalt dove and connected on a header off a Dylan Burk corner kick in the 65th minute. A tactical change in our midfield ramped up the pressure on the opposition's midfielder and backline.
In the 75th minute, Honduras' CB Michael Dugan was booked for a late challenge in the midfield. He was then sent off following a second bookable offense for denying a goalscoring opportunity in the 83rd minute. Still down a goal but with a man advantage, we piled on the pressure. Cade Klusendorf sent the ensuing free kick just a bit high and wide of the left stick. Oh so close for the RB from Marian University.
With less than 10 minutes to play, we kept up the pressure on Honduras but couldn't get the ball over the line. Then, the sucker punch against-the-run-of-play goal took our opponents back to a two-goal lead. Matt Thiel turned another one in after some pinballing around the box to halve the deficit, but it was too late to go on and find the equalizer.
Honduras never went behind, but the lads fought hard and made it interesting throughout. For our first showing on this type of stage, we felt that we were in it and competitive throughout the day. Maybe next year is our year, but for now, we look forward to starting our UPSL next weekend in St. Cloud against Granite City. That game is scheduled for a 6 PM kickoff on Sunday, April 30.