Saturday, October 15 saw the FC Wisconsin U15-U19 teams travel to Naperville, IL for ECNL match-ups against Chicago club Sockers FC. Though it was a grey and misty morning, the performances of the FC Wisconsin teams shined brightly as they claimed 2 wins and a tie from the 4 matches.
The U18s started slowly, falling behind Sockers 0-1 in the 7th minute on a diagonal ball slipped behind the back four that was finished after some miscommunication between players. The next 70 minutes were scoreless, with the ball primarily in midfield, as the teams searched for an opening. The best chance of the second half game early, when Katie Wegmann was played in behind the defense only to be denied on the break-away by the Sockers goalkeeper. That was the only significant opportunity for either team, until with only 15 minutes remaining the U18s made a tactical adjustment to push players forward in search of the equalizer. Unfortunately the decision did not pay off, as Sockers picked-off a square pass and combined nicely for their second goal in the 80th minute. The scoreline finished 0-2, in a result that was a bit harsh for the FC Wisconsin team, but showed the ruthless nature of the ECNL.
The U17s were looking to avenge a one-sided season-opening defeat to the Sockers in their rematch, and this determination and a lot of work on the training field over the last 2 months showed in a fiercely contested game that finished 0-0. Centerbacks Jordie Rothwell and Audrey Poorman were fantastic in the game, especially in the second half when they kept the team organized and disciplined through some trying moments in the final 15 minutes. With great defensive play, courage and determination to win airballs, and an aggressive mentality to contest everything, the team more than earned their point. Center midfielder Maddie Morris did a great job screening the back line, and goalkeeper Maddie Delaiden made several difficult saves to preserve the result.
The U16s started sharply, taking the lead in the 10th minute on a great finish by Aryssa Mahrt after her dribbling run beat several players. The team doubled the lead in the 20th minute on a tidy finish from 15 yards by Rachel Dallet, with Mahrt playing the role of provider for this goal. The Wisconsin outfit created a few more chances in the first half, but wasn’t able to finish – with the biggest opportunity being a half-volley on an open goal that Thompkins put just over the bar. The second half started quickly again, this time with Dallet finishing on an open goal after Thompkins nearly finished and the goalkeeper could not hold on to the ball. Despite being down 0-3, Sockers continued to fight and took a goal back only 5 minutes later. Over the final 20 minutes Sockers created a few half-chances on served balls into the box, but were unable to narrow the gap.
The U15s were also looking to turn-around the result from their first meeting with the Sockers, and they started confidently – playing out of the back and connecting well into midfield. In a game with both teams looking to connect passes and create more than use athleticism, both teams worked some nice combinations but were unable to find the finishing touch. Going into halftime the game was as even as the 0-0 scoreline indicated. The second half saw FC Wisconsin raise the tempo, and they were rewarded with a goal when Erin Hippo got behind the defense on a nice through ball from Caitlin Shilling. The lone goal was enough to claim all 3 points with the help of some good leadership and a few big plays from Abi Moriarity and Emily Ehlert in center defense. The always tenacious Maya Alberts did well to disrupt play and connect passes in center midfield, and Maggie Starker was a constant thorn for the Sockers to defend.
“It is always a great feeling to win a fixture in the ECNL,” said coach Andy Lee. “You really can’t explain how difficult the ECNL is to those who haven’t been in it. I was very proud of our teams today in how they played – both physically and tactically, and they earned every point. We are really starting to see some individuals show that they understand the commitment, focus, and energy that this league demands – and that they are prepared to do what it takes to be successful.”
“The players have put in a lot of work on the training field over the past 3 months, and you can see clear progress every week,” said Christian Lavers. “The decision-making in possession is getting better, our team defending has more and more sophistication each week, and we are starting to see some new potential bright spots from players that are raising their energy and physical level to match the level of the best league in the country.”
FC Wisconsin returns home this weekend for match-ups against St. Louis Scott Gallagher – Missouri and St. Louis Scott Gallagher – Illinois.