EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin - In the last two weeks of UPSL play, the Boats have come away with two impressive wins against two tough-to-beat clubs to keep pace in the race for the Midwest-West Division One title.
First up was a battle with Leon FC, a Latino club based out of the Twin Cities. Leon FC are an aggressive and highly technical side. However, it took 45 minutes for these traits to come out. In that time, they had spotted us with three goals.
The first came just two minutes into the contest from a set piece. Matt Folden sent in a corner kick that AJ Mittelsteadt rose highest to meet with his head. That would be Mittelsteadt's ninth goal of the campaign.
Fast forward to the 29th minute and a free kick from about 18 yards. Folden stood over the top of the dead ball, took aim, and rifled past the wall and the goalkeeper for our second goal of the game. No better way to score your first goal for the club.
Just a minute later, Mason Sherman was off to the races after being played in by Mittelsteadt. He gained position on his man as he sped around the corner, and with the target locked in his sights, dutifully hammered home the third from a tight angle.
We went into the half with a 3-0 lead and were by far the better side. However, Leon had proven to be a second half team this season, and so their fight had only begun. Their goals came off the back of sustained pressure in the 50th and 68th minutes. Kaden Alcindor cleared another goal bound attempt off the line in the 85th minute to preserve the lead and ultimately the victory.
"I felt we started the game well, and scoring that early really helped," Bateaux captain (on the day) Mittelsteadt said. "I'm very proud of how the guys did their part and stepped up [to get the win]."
Head Coach Josh Ranft added: "The guys did well to get the early goal and give us control early on. Leon pressed well in the second half... we'll take the points and move forward."
Move forward we did. This past weekend pitted the Boats against Skills FC of Burnsville, MN. Sitting in second place with a slight disadvantage in games played, we could only do with a win.
The scoring started off in a similar fashion to last week's game except it was Kaden Alcindor heading in from a Matt Folden corner. Before the goal, we had done well to set the pace of play and grab control of the game.
Luke Rosenberger nabbed a second for the team at about 33 minutes in. A quality switch ball played from the left half-space by Lukas Olson sent Rosenberger through with only the goalkeeper to beat. He kept his nerve and slotted home. Rather fortuitously, the same chance came to Rosenberger again right on the stroke of half time, but this time he could only put the shot wide.
The score sat at 2-0 through 45 minutes, the Boats firmly in control of proceedings. Skills FC did their best to wrestle the game back, controlling possession and overall play for the first 10-15 minutes of the second half. They could only muster a few chances in that window before we regained the possession battle.
With less than 20 minutes to play, we made it 3-0. Who scored, you ask? It could only be AJ Mittelsteadt. Standing over a dead ball about 25 yards out and well over on the right flank, Mittelsteadt cleared the wall and caught the goalkeeper napping, slotting his shot in at the near post. That goal makes 10 for Mittelsteadt this season, a wonderful return for the first-year player from Stoughton, WI.
We look forward to this coming Sunday when we play 18x26 Academy in Minnesota. It's a top-of-the-table clash, and a win will take us one step closer to the Premier Division.