The Minnesota Kings, who had competed in the semi-professional NPSL last season, were making the long trek to The Woodshed from St Michael and it promised to be a big match for the Blues, who always perform well against top opposition.
“We were looking forward to playing the Kings” said Club Chairman Dan Hoedeman “because we really fancied our chances – we were just about fully healthy and always play well against the better teams. Just ask FC Shango.”
Last time Stegman’s were at Big Willow, rain had made the surface so slick as to be almost unplayable. Mother Nature was up to similar tricks this Sunday as well, with rain starting early in the team’s warm-up and steadily impacting the playing surface.
Jon Bisswurm, the manager, commented “had we not faced this before, we may have been put off. Instead, it just steeled our resolve. And made us focus a bit more on that first touch – something that, in a different context, I have been telling the younger lads about how important it is.”
Despite the rain, the signs were propitious for the resplendently attired Old Boys. The injury crisis seemed to have abated with English midfielder Tommy McCarthy returning from a shin ailment, tricky winger Paul Diegnau cleared to play after a concussion, midfield general Jon Bisswurm declared fit after suffering a sports hernia, leading scorer Sean Webb looking comfortable despite an ankle brace for his injury and combative defender Dan Hoedeman playing despite suffering from bursitis in the hip.
The Old Boys had not been this healthy since the Wilson Cup match against FC Shango.
“It gives us confidence to have the full squad” said a talkative Al Vo, enjoying a Surly Hell after the match, “you aren’t making any adjustments, you’re just going out and playing your game. And Dan Warner’s girlfriend’s friend can testify – Al Vo’s got game.”
Club sponsor Surly had sent a few cases of their Hell lager to the team, and it weighed on the players’ minds.
“I would rather celebrate a win than drink after a loss” said defender George Hanscom “so I made sure to turn up on time and do a full warm-up. It helped the team, and it meant that Bisswurm wouldn’t make fun of me.”
The match finally kicked off, a full fifteen minutes late, but that did not seem to faze Stegman’s.
It may have even helped the side.
If you judge a match just based on the stats, this may have been the finest performance by a Blues side in history. Not a single misplaced pass. Overwhelming possession. All shots on target, all on-target shots scored. An unblemished disciplinary record. A euphoric goal celebration. Beers and photos after a big win.
It was all there.
And when Hoedeman fed Bisswurm with an incisive, visionary, Sneijder-esque ball that made the opposition defense look as though they hadn’t bothered to turn up, the captain made no mistake. His side-footed shot into the corner made Cool Hand Luke look like a weak-kneed girl, and the crowd greeted it with a roar and approval. The impish midfielder went on a mazy run of celebration and relief that ended in front of the beer cooler, as you do.
It was worth celebrating.
Stegman’s Old Boys had vanquished the Minnesota Kings.
“The stats may say that we were great, but there is lots of work to do” said Bisswurm afterward “first, we have to stay healthy and second, we have like two cases of beer to drink. And it won’t drink itself.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (4-4-2): Overlie, Woodward, Hoedeman, Toldt, Hanscom, Bisswurm, McCarthy, Maier, Castro-Malaspina, Webb, Thomas
Subs: Hedstrom, Pennings, Vo, Logan, Peichel, Maier, Diegnau