The Blues traveled to high-flying Blaine with injuries still significantly impacting the squad. David Maier, Pete Manning, Dan Hoedeman and Sean Webb remained sidelined and Tommy McCarthy was suspended. Positively, Nathan Toldt and Jon Bisswurm returned to the team.
Facing a continued personnel crisis and a very small field, Stegman’s pulled a tactical surprise and lined up in a 3-5-2.
“Jon and I had talked about it during the week leading up to the game” said Hoedeman “and it seemed to make a lot of sense after looking at our injury situation and the unique dimensions of the field. So we flooded the midfield, controlled possession, rode our luck a bit here and there and were able to walk out with a clean sheet and a victory. It wasn’t just intuition. I’m sure Bisswurm validated it in the FIFA Lab.”
“Of course I did” responded Bisswurm.
The first half was a tight tactical battle, but the small playing surface meant that action was never far from either goal.
Brandon Overlie was in fine form, making an outstanding diving save to his right after the ball had fallen to a Blaine forward on a counterattack. At the other end, Mike Logan was a buzzing annoyance to the opposition, working hard in the hole behind Dan Hedstrom to find the ball and bring others into the play. From Logan’s hard work two good chances were carved but neither Hedstrom nor Paul Diegnau on the wing were able to trouble the goalkeeper.
“The balance of play went our way” said Nick Sindt “we did well to win the midfield battle and strong defensive work from Nathan Toldt and Travis Pennings meant that only rarely did Blaine’s tactic of long balls over the top to the wingers ever really bear fruit.”
The second half remained finely balanced in the first exchanges with Blaine firing just over the crossbar after getting behind the Old Boys midfield and taking on the three-main defense, while George Hanscom saw a header cleared off the line at the other end.
Control of possession was starting to tell.
Paul Diegnau exchanged passes down the right flank before taking his defender on one-on-one. He twisted and turned, step-overed and coruscated before leaving his defender on his backside and delivering a teasing cross just out of reach of Blaine’s goalkeeper where he found Hedstrom arriving to stroke home with the most unusual of hip thrusts at the ball.“There was only one way to make sure it went in” said Hedstrom after the game.
Blaine went looking for an equalizer but remained stymied in midfielder and were increasingly resorting to long balls. Those long balls increasingly allowed the Blues to break quickly.
From one of those breaks, Hanscom winning the ball and playing it quickly to Tyler Woodward who played Dan Hedstrom into the channel, Hedstrom found that he had outpaced the defense and was alone on the outside edge of the box. Looking up, he saw the goalkeeper in no-man’s land and produced the most delicate of chips with his left boot to effectively end the game as a competitive affair.
“That’s what he is capable of” said Bisswurm about the mercurial striker “when he’s on, he’s like a fire-bleching Transformer of soccer awesomeness. If that fire-belching Transformer of soccer awesomeness could score a goal like that. It was pretty sick.”
Stegman’s Old Boys (3-5-2): Overlie, Woodward, Toldt, Pennings, Hanscom, Thomas, Bisswurm, Castro-Malaspina, Diegnau, Logan, Hedstrom
Subs: Warner, Keeler, Waln