In the end, Stegman’s Old Boys were the best team on the pitch by a considerable distance. They turned the second half into a procession and now set their sights on next Sunday’s Free Beer Movement Night clash against Scorpions.
They never wavered on a day of incredible heat and a first half of incredible hospitality on the part of the Blues defense. Stegman’s are, always, gracious hosts.
Both teams started sluggishly, the midday heat clearly taking its toll. Even in the early stages, the shape of the game was set. The Old Boys were doing well controlling possession and looked dangerous through their wingers, with Paul Diegnau and Al Vo menacing on the ball and willing to take defenders on. St Cloud were looking ropey at the back, but dangerous on the counter-attack.
And it was St Cloud were struck first, against the run of play.
A looping ball was played over the top and the visiting striker was able to slip in-between Travis Pennings and a diving Chris Sturdy to score.
Stegman’s were undaunted, confident that their brand of possession soccer would win the day. Good work on the left from Diegnau resulted in a corner. Derek Thomas, impressive all game, drove a low ball into the area for Rob Peichel to flip into the goal with an impudent flick of the outside of his boot. Things were level, but the game still hadn’t found the higher gear with both sides struggling in the oppressive conditions.
Stegman’s stayed on the front foot, Al Vo playing in an marauding Tommy McCarthy only for the Englishman to hit his chip too close to the goalkeeper and have it cleared by a recovering defender.
Again, against the run of play, Stegman’s were punished. The defense, missing Sebastian Castro-Malaspina, Dan Hoedeman and Nathan Toldt, had been forced to concede a number of free kicks and from one of those St Cloud’s resident Dave Tesch doppleganger fired into the corner of the net with Brandon Overlie left stranded.
Despite being a goal down, the Blues played with style and panache.
The wide players were dangerous, and the central midfielders looked to play them early. The defenders were being tortured. If they were not being taken on one-on-one, they had to watch for the early cross or through ball. When that wasn’t on, there was always the diagonal.George Hanscom almost scored, pulling down an angled ball from Tyler Woodward that took the entire St Cloud defense out of the game but he was only able to find the side netting.
Minutes later Al Vo made no mistake from a similar angle.
Chris Sturdy won the ball well in defense and played a quick ball to McCarthy. The Englishman had his wits about him, holding onto the ball long enough to draw in two defenders and give time for Vo to make his run before playing in inch-perfect ball to Vo just outside the 18-yard box. The Blues striker still had much to do, but a silky touch and a cheeky head fake left the goalkeeper on his backside while Vo slotted the ball into the net.
Yet again, Stegman’s were to fall to a counterattack.
“It had to have been the heat” said Jon Bisswurm after the game “it was liking playing in molasses out there, only a molasses that slowly sapped your concentration and will to drink any beer after the game.”
It was a concentration lapse that caused the goal. A long throw was only partially cleared and pinged around the box before falling to a St Cloud player who fired home.
The Blues were finally roused from their stupor.
“You could feel the midfield get a bit more stuck in, the team play smarter with the ball” said Bisswurm. “Nobody wanted to lose that game.”
St Cloud were immediately under the cosh, their midfield and defense getting torn apart by a display of passing and smart movement. Diegnau, receiving a simple ball from Thomas, feinted away from a covering midfielder and raced into the box and directly at the fullback. Flat-footed and about to get beaten, the visiting defender rashly challenged Diegnau and took him out.
McCarthy stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake.
With the scores level at the break, the disgust on the faces of the Old Boys players was apparent.
“We knew that we were the better team” said Vo “we just needed to get a bit more serious about things. And perhaps to have some Gatorade. I can’t tell you how hot it was on that field.”
The first ole’s could be heard inside the opening five minutes of the half. It was not that St Cloud were particularly poor; this was just a Stegman’s team filled with drive, all of whom wanted the ball and had the intelligence to do the right things with it. The Blues paired their possession with a defensive rigidity not found in the first half and with a penetration that would put Spain to shame, working passing triangles and then suddenly changing the pace of the game once there was an opening.
The fourth goal was a case in point.
The dangerous Diegnau was again at play down the flank and won a corner. Peichel took the corner, going short to Bisswurm. The captain spun away from his marker, looked up, and saw Hanscom and Thomas sprinting unmarked toward the back post. It was all too easy, Bisswurm’s angled cross eluding the flailing goalkeeper and being put away with some style by a flying Thomas.
By that stage, Stegman’s were controlling play in the middle of the pitch. Their three central players – Bisswurm, Thomas and Daniel Warner – could all interchange positions. Diegnau and Vo were like unbridled horses, all raw speed and coiled aggression.
The fifth goal so Vo again make a difference.
Swapping flanks with Diegnau, he took on the beleaguered fullback once more. His feint inside and explosive step outside was too much and again the defender was flat-footed and flailing, his boot catching Vo’s leg inside the box and leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. And Vo was left with no choice but to bury the penalty.
St Cloud were defeated and, with the heat oppressive, the game wound down into keep ball for the final few minutes.
Stegman’s Old Boys (3-5-2): Overlie, Woodward, Pennings, Sturdy, Diegnau, Thomas, Bisswurm, Warner, Hanscom, Peichel, Keeler
Subs: McCarthy, Vo