It was hardly a vintage team performance by Stegman’s Old Boys, but individuals did enough to secure a 3-1 away at Rampage FC and continue the side’s good start to the season.Brandon Overlie was the star individual, especially in the first half. The Blues came out flat, perhaps lulled into a false sense of of the quality of the home team based on their record to date – a record that included matches played while most of Rampage’s squad was still at college. No back in the side, they featured good pace and movement up top.
On more than one occasion, Overlie’s defense let him down but he came up with big saves to keep things level.
And on the one occasion where he was unable to stop the shot, a scrum in the box resulted in a dink shot that floated over Overlie, he was bailed out by Dan Hoedeman clearing off the line.
Despite having a clear edge in terms of possession, the Old Boys looked alarmingly sterile in the final third.
“The pitch was very poor” said midfielder Tommy McCarthy before launching into a more colorful description of its state. “It got in the way of us playing our game, what with the ball bobbling everywhere, and it was impossible to build from the back.”
“I would rather play on turf than this garbage” continued David Maier.
The Blues remained on top in possession but their struggle to create chances continued into the second half, though a tightening up of the defense meant that the Rampage were quiet in attack and Overlie’s work was largely done for the day.The pressure was starting to build and, though there were not many clear-cut chances, there were chances with Dan Hedstrom and Mike Logan in particular doing good work up front, prompted by the incisive passing of Sean Webb in the hole. Rampage were sitting deep though, and it was hard to break through the wall of bodies until a poorly hit corner surprised the Rampage defender enough for him to use his arm to knock the ball behind the goal.
The referee pointed to the spot immediately.
Rampage had reason to feel hard done by with that decision, especially when Webb powered home from the spot.
The home side remained lively, winning a series of free kicks just inside the Old Boys half. From one of those, otherwise out of nothing, they conjured a goal. A lofted free kick too advantage of a messy offsides trap to allow their rangy forward to spin a header home.
Last season, the game would have petered out into a bore draw and the Blues would have left frustrated with their inability to grab the three points. But this is a new season and, in many ways, a new team. Composure holding, the Blues kept up their pressure and were having good luck with Maier and Manning taking turns to terrorize the left side of the Rampage defense.
With Rampage remaining very deep, it was from another scrum in the area that the Old Boys scored. Sebastian Castro-Malaspina, playing well in an advanced midfield role, made a darting run that was rewarded by a bit of pinball in the box that let the ball run to him.
He made no mistake, and Stegman’s re-took the lead.
Rampage began to press higher in search of an equalizer, but the defense was doing well keeping the home side in their own half. Daniel Warner was particularly impressive in a defensive center midfield role, sweeping up in front of the defense and providing a solid platform to launch attacks.
It was he who keyed the third goal.
Travis Pennings won the ball on the left and fed Warner in the middle. Warner gave him a simple return pass and Pennings was off to the races, charging down the sideline like a teenaged boy whose girlfriend’s father has just found him in flagrante delicto with his daughter. A slide-rule pass from the Wisconisn was enough to put in Dan Hedstrom, and the forward made no mistake with his shot.
In off the post and 3-1 to the good.
The game was effectively over and, despite the very poor condition of the field, the Old Boys were able to keep the ball and play out time.
“It was not a good performance” said Hoedeman after the game “but that is what the media always say separates the good teams from the bad, the ability to grind out a win when you’re not at your best. We couldn’t do that last season, but we did it here tonight. So take that, media.”
“You could say that we were lucky” said Castro-Malaspina “and they did hit the crossbar and have a shot cleared off the line, but then again our players came up big when we needed them to. That’s the sign of a good team. We also have Rob Peichel, so…”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Overlie, Hoedeman, Pennings, Toldt, Hanscom, Diegnau, McCarthy, Castro-Malaspina, Maier, Webb, Hedstrom
Subs: Woodward, Peichel, Logan, Manning, Warner, Keeler