Only a win would be an acceptable result, and the Old Boys rose to the occasional in some style against United at a slick and muddy Arlington Park.
The game was the perfect antidote to the World Cup final played just hours before, with the Old Boys playing an expansive and stylish attacking game. The possession-based attack proved to be too much for United. The visitors were almost immediately overrun in the midfield and completely outplayed on the flanks, and it took only ten minutes for their resistance to be broken, albeit in lucky circumstances, a sweeping move down the right ending with United putting into their own goal from a raking cross by Mark Schmitt.
Working the flanks was clearly part of the plan, and the variance of service kept United on the back foot.
Whether it was Jon Bisswurm delivering long diagonal balls from sweeper, Jon Scott and “Gorgeous” George Hanscom feeding the wings from the midfield or the direct running of fullbacks Matt Gorrell and Gary Erzberger, United was always facing a threat. Coupled with the patience in possession that the SOBs showed, the only surprise was that it took a further ten minutes for the second goal.
“Their goalkeeper was bobbing up and down like a muppet on a string trying to keep the ball out of the back of his net,” said the Manager Job Bisswurm, “it was quite impressive actually.”
United had been looking vulnerable on set pieces, and it was from a corner that the Old Boys’ lead was extended. Centerback Dan Hoedeman sauntered up from the back and, left unmarked, was free to send a classy diving header into the bottom corner.
It remained all one-way traffic, and with the home support in good voice the Old Boys continued to attack with incision and urgency. Only a continued impressive showing from the United goalkeeper kept the scoreline respectable.
Looking to inject a bit of pace into the attack, Graham Campbell was brought on and made an immediate contribution.
His pace and vision caused the opposition backline no end of problems and it was just reward for Campbell when, breaking away from the United defense after a good run, he calmly slotted home his first goal for the club and make it 3 – 0 to the good.
“I’ve been a big believer in Graham since he first turned up,” Bisswurm commented, “he has continued to improve throughout the season in terms of playing ability and Puyol-esque hairstyle and his goal was just reward for a dominating performance.”
The second half saw a more subdued Old Boys attack. Content to maintain possession and keep United chasing shadows, chances were fewer but still regularly available with Aleksey Polukeyev carving a number of excellent chances including a long range effort that nicked the top of the crossbar. Brandon Overlie and Bryan Larson also got into the act, each causing trouble down the wing every time they got the ball.
United struggled to win and retain the ball and rarely were even able to get the ball out of their own half. The pressure eventually wore them down, an errant backpass picked up by “Handsome” Dave Tesch 20 yards out at the corner of the 18-yard box. Tesch proceeded to fire a scorcher into the top corner and celebrate sheepishly.
“The ball sort of held up because of the heavy ground,” said Tesch after the game “so I suspect that I owe the assist to the groundskeeper.”
With the fourth goal, the game petered out as a competitive affair until the 88th minute when slack defending allowed United to bundle home their only shot of the game for a completely undeserved consolation goal. But even after the goal, the Old Boys remained unflustered, kept the ball and finished to shouts of “Ole!” from the home support with each completed pass.
“It’s against the bottom team in the table, sure,” said Chairman Hoedeman after the game, “but these are the types of games that are easy to lose. United are fighting against relegation and arrived very motivated. However, we had the right mindset and tactics and made them look as effective as the Maginot Line.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Horstman, Erzberger, Hoedeman, Bisswurm, Gorrell, Larson, Reynolds, Scott, Schmitt, Hanscom, Tesch
Subs: Polukeyev, Campbell, Johnson, Overlie