Good things generally don't come easy and that held true in the inaugural Eau Claire Derby as we held on for the 0-1 win over our new rivals, Union ECFC.
The game was played on the celebration of Juneteenth and Father's Day. Our club hosted Pride in OUR Park, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. In conjunction with the event, we've now raised $1,900 and counting for the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center. Over 300 fans were in attendance, the biggest crowd in our young history.
The lone goal of the game was scored by David Ripplinger in the 35th minute. Dalton Hoepner played a brilliant ball over the top of the left-sided defense, isolating Ripp against their LB. A few steps later, he was by him and being pulled down by both shoulders in the box. Stonewall penalty. He coolly slotted the ensuing spot kick in the lower left corner of the net.
Union responded well and probably had the better second half of the two teams. Their midfield trio held control and helped to create several good chances to score, but some rather abject finishing took us off the hook. Two late chances - one from Lu Shi Xiong and the other from Herbert Engop - somehow missed the target.
Jonathan Mullally makes one of several saves against Union ECFC. / Photo: Christina Gordon
Our defense was brave and battled hard throughout the full 90 minutes. The CB trio of Kyle Bushendorf, Cade Klusendorf, and Luke Rosenberger have been essentially impenetrable and were again yesterday. Rosenberger in particular had a massive game, never putting a foot wrong and winning every contested ball. It's the defense that will win a championship, as they say, and we currently have the strongest in the league (based on goals allowed per game).
In a post-game interview, Head Coach Nick Noskowiak stated, "Composure wins games and we had more of it tonight. We showed it." While we might not have won the possession battle, we played the game we needed to play and came out victorious in the derby. Points on the board and a clean sheet to boot.
Our next WPASL match sees us travel to Hayward to take on Hayward Wolfpack FC. It'll be the first meeting between the sides since our 1-2 win in last season's WPASL Primary Cup Final. That match is slated for Saturday, June 25 at 5:00 PM CST.
STARTING XI: Mullally, Bushendorf, Rosenberger, Klusendorf, Martinez, Walters, Hoepner, Burk, van Nelson, Ripplinger, Espanet
SUBS: Brotzman, Goodrie, Hunt, Lopez, Nelson, Schwartz, Solberg, Tepole, Xiong
GOALS: Ripplinger (pk, unassisted) - 35th minute
YELLOW CARDS: Espanet - 82nd minute
Black for the funeral. / Photo: Christina Gordon