EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin - The Boats took the field twice in the past six days, winning one and losing one. Those results mean we'll enter the UPSL Division One Midwest-West playoffs as the #2 seed team.
Last Sunday, we traveled to St. Louis Park to take on 18x26 Academy. We entered the game with a one-point advantage in the standings, but our opponent had played one game less. The result here would be decisive.
18x26 Academy controlled the first 10 minutes and created three chances through smart possession and overloading the weak side. We opted to make a change to get a better hold on the game, a tactic that had the desired effect.
After the change, we were able to deflect their possession in the midfield and build down the wings. We would generate a few chances, mostly from set plays, ultimately all of which did not lead to a goal. Both teams went into the break deadlocked and split evenly.
The game kicked up a notch or five in the second half. 18x26 Academy came out of the interval with more urgency and drive, but many of their attacks were wasted with a poor final ball. However, their press was well-organized which prevented us from playing to our strengths.
On about 60 minutes, Elliott Solberg trounced his man down the wing, cut inside and unleased a powerful shot that nicked the outside of the far post and stayed out. Only five minutes later, the hosts took the lead following a quick counterattack. Sometimes soccer is a game of inches.
A quick give-and-go combination saw 18x26's midfielder in space. The pass into a forward was loose and came off the player's arm. The ball was laid off to his strike partner to finish past Enrique Torres in goal. Although the center ref saw the incident, he did not see enough in it to disallow the goal.
Following the goal, our opponents took every opportunity to restart play slowly. Several warning were issued to players. Head Coach Nick Noskowiak was cautioned for his protests, but his card was the only caution.
The game was marred by an unfortunate moment in the last minute of stoppage time. With the game all but over, a 18x26 Academy forward caught defender Kaden Alcindor square in the upper stomach with his studs. Only a yellow card was given. The opposing coach failed to acknowledge the severity of the foul, noting his player "doesn't know the rules" due to his age. Noskowiak received his second yellow card while defending our downed player.
As disappointing as it was to fall to 18x26 Academy on the day and in the regular season, we still had work to do to claim second in the league and guarantee at least one playoff game at home.
This past Saturday, we hosted Deportivo U2 FC in the last game of the regular season. It was also the Club's first ever Youth Day.
We held control throughout the majority of the first half, frequently attacking the opponent's defensive line and forcing the goalkeeper to make a couple saves. John Wilke put a shot off the crossbar, and a few other chances went agonizingly wide.
However, Deportivo U2 FC drew first blood after some smart combinations allowed their forward space in behind. The first shot was well-saved by Torres, but the rebound was put into the back of the net. Just like the first time around, we would have to comeback in the second half.
We made no major tweaks at halftime and picked up where we left off before the concession. Less than 10 minutes into the half, AJ Mittelsteadt was run over as he entered the box, earning us a penalty. While he didn't score from the spot, he was given a second chance off the save and scored the rebound. The comeback was on.
About five minutes on, we found our second. After a series of deflections, Elliott Solberg lined up and ripped the ball first-time. The shot whizzed through the crowded box, only stopping when it crashed into the far side netting. 2-1, 30 minutes to play.
There were no major events after the second goal. Deportivo tried to press but our midfield and defense held firm.
Our next game sees us play at home to Leon FC on Wednesday, July 5 in the playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM.