The Old Boys faced a Burnsville Fire side that had just missed out on promotion last season and was, based on league position, the most difficult opponents that the Blues had yet to meet. Yet, on a hot Sunday in Edina, the run of play was even throughout.
With the Fire looking like Minnesota’s own version of Swansea, keeping possession well but with the bulk of it passes between defenders in their own half, and with the Blues happy to press only at the halfway line and look to space in the channels, it was a cagey match from the first kickoff.
“We wanted to feel them out a little bit” said Jon Bisswurm, the manager, “we hadn’t played them before, we knew their reputation, and we’re still a new team. But there was never really any panic in our ranks, and in the first half I thought that we had the better chances.”
There were two gilt-edged chances in the first half.
The Old Boys started brightly, with David Maier, Sean Webb and Bisswurm strong in the midfield and using the ball well. Quick interplay between the three of them resulted in a lovely ball through to Dan Hedstrom. Hedstrom broke through but, with only the goalkeeper to beat, was able only to side foot weakly into his grateful arms.
On the other end, the Fire were probing intelligently but without straining a back four that was well marshaled by Sebastian Castro-Malaspina and Dan Hoedeman. The away side was able to win a dangerous free kick, but Brandon Overlie, impressive on the day, dealt with the danger with a fine save to his left. The only spot of panic was when the opposition striker, picking up an errant pass from Jake Keeler, fired wide.
“It was fairly comfortable in the first half, to be honest” said Hoedeman “take nothing away from Burnsville, but as a unit we defended well without really being stretched.”
After the break, the heat seemed to be affecting the Old Boys though the balance of the game remained the same.
Burnsville shaded possession slightly, though the Blues had a very bright start to the half, but the Old Boys continued to look dangerous without ever really consistently threatening a final product.
For a time, it looked like Stegman’s would make the first break through.
Sean Webb was put through by Maier and his left-footed shot was superbly turned away by the Burnsville goalkeeper. On the resulting corner kick, Derek Thomas headed back across goal and Hoedeman connected on a diving header, only to blast his shot against the crossbar and away.
“That would have changed the game” said Bisswurm “it was a chess match up to that point and you could tell that the first goal was going to be critical. We looked likely for it, but it wasn’t to be. Not unlike a safe cab ride home from a night out in Minneapolis, it seemed nailed on but we were in for a gut-wrenching surprise.”
A seemingly harmless ball was played over the top of the Blues defense deep to the right. With two Old Boys defenders covering there seemed no danger until the slippery winger wriggled free near the byline. With Hoedeman forced to step up, the Burnsville fire curled in a cross and was headed home by the lurking forward.
“It wasn’t as bad as getting robbed and left in Blaine, but it was pretty close” said Bisswurm.
“I thought that we were going to get the better of them” said Webb “and that goal kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, they’re a good team, but it seemed like the game was sputtering out to a 0-0 draw.”
The Old Boys pressed on after the goal, intent on challenging the Fire in the last 15 minutes of action. But again, there was a lot of activity and hard running, but a dearth of quality chances. And, as so often happens when chasing the game, Burnsville were able to take advantage of the pressing Blues to score a second goal and ice the game with only minutes remaining.
“You hate to lose, but can understand it against a team like that” said Jake Keeler afterward “they were a good team without a single weak link, and they played hard and fair. These are the games you love playing in.”
“When we were playing in the MRSL we were better than every team we played” said Bisswurm “and that took some of the fun out of it. Here, we’re not. We’re being challenged, being forced to play as well as we can. It’s a lot more fun, but the real fun comes when we start to win games like this. The FIFA Lab says that we can. Don’t doubt the FIFA Lab. DO NOT DOUBT THE FIFA LAB.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Overlie, Woodward, Hoedeman, Castro-Malaspina, Hanscom, Diegnau, Bisswurm, Maier, Thomas, Webb, Hedstrom
Subs: Peichel, Logan, Keeler, Vo, Warner