The Wilson Cup draw was not kind, pitting Stegman’s Old Boys against FC Shango.
Shango, on current position the highest rated team in the tournament, are an established Division 2 side that was expected to stroll to victory in Saturday’s first round cup action. They moved on in the end, but were bossed for 70 minutes by the Old Boys and only managed to score through an indefensible penalty and a winner with seconds on the clock after injuries put the Blues down to 10 men.
It was a performance of the highest quality from Stegman’s, and it deserved better than the cruelly bitter loss.
Even more impressive was that the team did it with a lengthy list of absentees. The Blues were without Jon Bisswurm, Sebastian Castro-Malaspina, Nathan Toldt, Derek Thomas, and Rob Peichel for the match, with Castro-Malaspina and Peichel scratches on the day due to a Tottenham lasagna-esque malady.
The Old Boys were out the gate quickly against Shango. With Tommy McCarthy and Daniel Warner bossing the midfield, Paul Diegnau and David Maier pegging back the opposition fullbacks and Mike Logan and Sean Webb attacking tenaciously, Shango were on the back foot from the off.
“Finally, a pitch that was playable” said McCarthy.
With the Old Boys able to use their short passing game to build from the back, they effectively dominated possession and were able to scare the Shango defense with a balanced attack that was prompted by the smart use of the ball by McCarthy. Half-chances fell to Logan and Diegnau, but neither were able to challenge the goalkeeper.
Still, the Blues pushed forward. And from the third corner in quick succession towering centerback Dan Hoedeman was able to
head the cross into the path of McCarthy. The Englishman made no mistake from the top of the box, sweetly striking a left-footed shot into the top corner.
“It was only a matter of time before we scored based on the run of play” said defender Jake Keeler after the game.
The chances continued to fall, with the clearest cut falling to fullback “Gorgeous” George Hanscom. An incisive through-ball from Maier sent him scampering into the box but he was just unable to get a touch before the goalkeeper grabbed the ball.
Though the Tangerine’s forward line looked dangerous when they got the ball, they were struggling to get service and were well marshaled by the Stegman’s backline though goalkeeper Brandon Overlie, so impressive in recent games, was called on to make a quality save after a Shango forward slipped past the defense.
The midday sun began to take its toll as the half wore on, with Stegman’s content to keep the ball but unable to keep up the earlier pace.
“We were feeling good at the half” said Hoedeman “we knew that we could play at this level and were we proving it in style.”
Shango came out strong in the second half, stung by going behind to lower division opposition. Yet still, the Old Boys help strong with the back four of Hanscom, Hoedeman, Tyler Woodward and Travis Pennings repelling the opposition.
“I’m not going to say it was easy” said Hoedeman “and we were giving up a number of goal kicks, but outside of a somewhat fluky half-cross, half-shot of the sort that befuddled David Seaman against Ronaldinho in the ’02 World Cup but didn’t come close to fooling Overlie, we were doing a great job of soaking up the pressure and breaking quickly.”
With 20 minutes remaining, it was on a breakaway that the second goal came. A succession of quick passes resulted in Warner racing free down the right wing with the ball.
He beat his defender and attacked the goal, head up in search of support. With none arriving and Warner stranded in an obscenely poor angle, Warner did what any SOB would do. He went for goal, firing past the goalkeeper at his near post with a cheeky shot from the outside of his right boot.
Despite the goal, and perhaps because of it, Shango re-doubled their efforts and began to take advantage of the tiring Blues.
The defense was getting more and more stretched, with a fine cross cutting out much of the defense only for a hobbling Keeler to get the slightest of touches on the ball in the box to put the Shango attacker off. There were passionate appeals for a penalty, which only ever would have been a 50-50 call, but they were waved off.
Minutes later, Shango were again on the attack. Wide in the box, Al Vo was shepherding an attacker wide with his arms up to avoid a foul when the Tangerine forward took a dive.
Incredibly, the referee pointed to the spot.
“I don’t want to get in trouble with the league, but I remain floored that he called that” said Hoedeman “there was no contact at all, he just went down. And way in the corner of the box, there was no threat. Of course, there was no explanation from the referee – there never is. He was garbage.”
Shango buried the penalty and pulled a goal back.
There were to score another with only a few minutes left on the clock, in this case combining well to beat Overlie at his far post. With that, is was off to golden goal extra time.
The loss of the lead seemed to inspire Stegman’s. Keeler was off injured, but the team had enough in the tank to carve out the better chances in the extra period. However, with both Woodward and McCarthy having to walk off with injuries there was nothing on the bench.
It didn’t seem to matter, especially when Sean Webb, who had been excellent dropping off of the striker and finding space to exploit, put Logan through on goal. The ball didn’t seem to bounce just right for the forward, however, and he was able to only weakly side-foot into the goalkeeper’s grateful hands.
During that play Al Vo went down and was forced off. With no subs available, the Blues were down a man and, with just over a minute on the clock, they were made to pay. Work down the Old Boys right put a Shango attacker one-on-one with Hoedeman who had pulled over from his central position. The flagging defender was not able to cut the angle down in time and allowed the forward through on goal. He made no mistake. Stegman’s were out of the cup.
“It was a sucker punch” said Hoedeman after the game “not least because it was my fault. But now that I am over my profanity-laced post-game tirade, I am able to take the positives from this. The positives are twofold: one, I get to drink this delightfully tasty Surly Bender; two, we showed that we have real quality in the team. Given a good surface, we should be able to replicate this in the league. Not the heartbreaking loss part, the dominating display part.”
“That game felt like partying with the Laker Girls at the Playboy mansion all night and then getting beaten up by the boyfriend of every one of the Laker Girls and waking up in sweatpants on Bisswurm’s couch” said George Hanscom after the game. “Not that I know what that feels like.”
“We can hold our heads high after that” said McCarthy “we bossed the game for 70 minutes and largely played a higher division team off the park. D2, you’re having a laugh.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Overlie, Woodward, Hoedeman, Pennings, Hanscom, Diegnau, McCarthy, Warner, Maier, Webb, Logan
Subs: Hedstrom, Vo, Keeler