FC Wisconsin’s final multiple game homestand of 2016 came October 22-23 with visits from St. Louis Scott Gallagher – MO and St. Louis Scott Gallagher – IL. The powerhouse clubs, with nearly 1600 female players between them, are two of the most stable clubs in the Midwest and always a supreme challenge.
Saturday’s match-ups were with the Missouri side, and all four games were tight affairs.
The U15s started the day with a 0-0 tie against Missouri. The first half was primarily a midfield battle as each side struggled to create a clear chance. Maggie Starker provided the most dangerous moments for FC Wisconsin on several dribbling runs that were stopped just before breaking behind the defense – and her attacking play was constantly asking questions of the Missouri defense. The second half saw Missouri raise the pressure a bit, but Emily Ehlert marshalled the backline with great aggressiveness throughout the game, and was in the right place at the right time for several big tackles or important interceptions. The peak of the Missouri pressure came in the final minutes when they hit the crossbar twice in quick succession, but the grit of the Wisconsin team was just enough to keep the scoreboard clean. Only minutes after this close call, it was Missouri on the back foot when Caitlin Shilling put a shot just beyond the far post in the closing seconds of regulation play. Overall, sharing the points was a fair result and a credit to both team’s tenacity.
The U16s looked to build on the momentum generated from their previous outing against Sockers FC, but were quickly pinned back by a poor start and a terrifically determined Missouri team. An unfortunate habit of poor beginnings found the FC Wisconsin team down 0-2 in less than 10 minutes, creating a tall order for them to earn any points in the game. Despite this, after the first 10 minutes the game was quite even, with Aryssa Mahrt creating several chances and Emma Jaskaniec earning several dangerous free kicks. Coming out of the halftime break, the team looked to be on the right foot, and a Rachel Dallet goal in the 60th minute seemed to turn the momentum. Unfortunately, as soon as the momentum looked like it was changing, an unpressured mistake in the back gave the Missouri team an insurance goal in the 65th minute. Not to be deterred, the U16s created several chances to pull back within one, but a save stifled Emma Tabor’s breakaway and a volley on an open goal from Alyssa Rivera went just over the bar. At the end of 80 minutes, the poor start was the difference in a 1-3 defeat.
The U17s faced a Missouri team that is tearing up the Midwest Conference – and that didn’t change on Saturday. While creating a few chances on the counter that could have been finished better, FC Wisconsin was outplayed by a very strong team that looks like it will challenge for the Midwest Conference championship. The 0-6 score was a bit unfair to the hosts, but a clear demonstration of the ruthless nature and efficiency of the top teams in the ECNL.
The U18s battled gamely for 90 minutes but came up short 0-1 on a second half goal. Kristina Barczak led a strong defensive effort, and Bianca Stubler created several chances coming down the left flank – but the U18s were unable to find the scoring touch, a repeated theme in the 2017 season to date.
Sunday saw all four teams meet the Illinois side of St. Louis Scott Gallagher, with 4 games filled with excitement and drama.
The U15s were in a 90-minute slug fest, with neither team able to break the deadlock. A penalty save by Lexi Prusow stifled the best chance from Illinois early in the first half, while on the other side Anika Seam linked up with Starker to create a few half-chances. Unfortunately a collision with the Illinois goalkeeper left Starker with a serious injury and put a damper on what was otherwise a great match-up. The 0-0 result was perhaps the most fair outcome for each team.
Against Illinois, the U16s started slightly better than the day before – at least enough to take a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute on another Dallet goal. The finish came on a broken play and a fortuitous through ball, but was taken nicely and fairly reflected the balance of play. Continuing their history of up and down performances, however, the U16s were fortunate not to give up the lead at the beginning of the second half, when Illinois earned multiple corners early and were unlucky not to grab a goal. Nicole Norfolk worked to pull the team out of the slump, and ultimately some good penetrating passes from Mahrt and Jaskaniec were finished by Dallet again to create a 3-goal cushion and some breathing room. Emma Tabor notched a fourth, and the fifth came late to give the U16s a deserved, but slightly flattering 5-0 victory. In the “unsung hero” category, Jose Ascione was perhaps the most consistent performer on the weekend, moving to center back on the day and continuing to shine as she has throughout her first season in the league.
The U17s earned 3-points in a very tight game, aided by a red card to the Illinois goalkeeper midway through the first half. The card could not be argued, however, as Hailey Farrington had been taken down on a clear break-away and it changed the structure of the game. The Illinois side fought gamely despite playing with 10 men, and it was only a nice finish from Maddy Swartzmiller that was the difference in the 1-0 final.
“Overall, against another tough Midwest club, we saw more progress from our teams this weekend,” said coach Andy Lee. “We still have a ways to go in our technical level, and in some of our decision-making in key moments, but we are seeing more consistency across the age groups and from the players.”
“An undefeated weekend for the U15s is a huge accomplishment, and reflective of the great work that the group has done in training over the past weeks,” said Christian Lavers. “We also saw both the highs and lows of the U16s this weekend – a terrible start that cost three points and an explosion of goals the next day. If that group can resolve their inconsistency, and mature in their competitive mindset, they will be a tough match for any team in the conference.”
All four teams will have a chance to re-evaluate themselves against the same opponents this weekend, as FC Wisconsin goes on the road to St. Louis for Halloween weekend!