Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

FMFC 2-1 Red Wolves: Out Like a Lion

Photo: @dreamsofpdx

Apologies for the late post but I spent the first part of my Sunday mimicking Bernard Black, followed by a requisite park visit for Clyde to show off his Halloween garb, and then retrieving my car from N Paterson Street. The match was a bit surreal for me as my final match as President of The Flock. I’m proud of the soccer community we’re building in Madison, and I’m not sure I’ll ever really feel any sort of finality or closure for the past 3 years at the helm. Part of that is probably because I’m not really going anywhere — it’s not like I’m stopping going to games — I still love this club and will support this club as long as it exists. The other part is that this community is what we’ve made it; born of the life force of the people involved — it’s part of who I am, and it’s got a lot of me in it.

I hope the next set of Flock leaders will approach their roles not trying to replicate the work and style of their predecessors. While it was necessary getting things off the ground to have jack-of-all-trades type people in board roles, I firmly believe the future of this fanbase is dependent on helping the wider community engage using their unique skills and talents. In my opinion, any board of directors, be it for a local NPO or a multinational corporation, should act as catalysts for wider success, not necessarily having to do all the mission-critical work themselves. Boards should primarily act as stewards and servants, not governors.

For me personally, ending my tenure after a third season allows me to give myself permission to take my foot off the gas a bit. I still plan to keep up the creative things I’ve put myself to over the past three years (design work for merch & stickers, and this blog/zine are case examples), but on my own timelines, with my own motives, and without weight of needing to fill the coffers or balance the books. I feel great about what I helped accomplish in regards to setting a high bar creatively, as well as building some financial stability so we can fund future projects. The Flock is well-poised to take some big steps, but I’m relieved to a degree that I can just be a fan again and enjoy that experience. I’m incredibly stoked for that next spring.

FMFC 2:1 Red Wolves

The Flamingos wrapped up the season on a high note on Saturday, spoiling the Red Wolves’ chance for a quarterfinal bye. The game was a fairly end to end and at times physical affair, with the Red Wolves maintaining 59% of the possession. Rafa Mentzingen had the first real chance near the 3′ mark, forcing the first of 3 saves on the night for Phil Breno. Derek Gebhard was lively in defense, managing 9 recoveries, 7 duels won, and 3 clearances. Chattanooga outshot Madison 10-6, with each side putting only 3 shots on target apiece.

Gebhard would have the first real chance for Madison early in the 25th minute with a blistering run down the right flank and after a couple bouncing touches had his shot parried away by Trilk. A superb free kick at the top of the 18 yard box from Christian Enriquez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, dummied initially by Aaron Molloy before being tucked into the top corner. Enriquez has struggled to find his shooting boots this season, but over the past four games has really stepped up in terms of creative contributions, maintaining a passing percentage of greater than 90%.

Madison’s second at 65′ started as a pass out wide right from the center circle from Enriquez to Gebhard, who lays it off to Jepson who’s made a fantastic diagonal run toward the right corner. Jepson dribbles in slightly toward goal and plays a square pass to Trimmingham who appears to get a slight touch on it before being saved by a diving Trilk. Jepson’s diagonal run causes the chaos here by drawing out Navarro, leaving Josiah unmarked at the near post, allowing this chance to happen. Unfortunately for the Red Wolves, Trim’s blocked shot bounces straight up into the air and while Jason Ramos tries heroically to clear the ball off the line, the clearance bounces off Jonathan Ricketts (who’s arrived to help, no less) and straight back into the net.

Rey Ortiz-Flores would pull one back for Chattanooga just minutes later, even as the post-goal pink smoke still hung in the air. It was a great individual effort from a tough angle, appearing to deflect off Eric Leonard and beating Breno from the far left side of the 18 yard box. Juan Galindrez has another chance early in the 76th, turning Cyrus Rad and firing just wide (though it looked like Breno got a finger on it to me). The physicality increased as the game went into stoppage time, the official calling for 5 minutes and Red Wolves still trying to push for a quarterfinal bye. The Red Wolves would have their last chance in the form of a corner in the Flock End, Jimmie Villalobos getting a head to it and forcing Breno’s 3rd, final, and absolutely crucial save of the night.

Molloy had another Man of the Match performance while also being kicked and shoved by Red Wolves players at every turn. Tired of being targeted all game, as soon as the whistle blew Aaron walked around flexing his arms in front of the Red Wolves players, as well as Phil Breno blowing kisses to the Flock End. The frustration from the Red Wolves team was palpable, Galindrez kicking Molloy and many from the Chattanooga bench coming out to the pitch to get in on the pushing / shoving / banter. In the end it was just a bit of gamesmanship, and after all was said and done, Madison had beaten two of the table-topping teams in their final three games, sending the fans home with three points and some delicious theatrics at the end.

The Lineup

Changes to the lineup from the Tucson game included Enriquez in for Sukow and Derek Gebhard in for Tyler Allen. Keegan was once again left on the bench, likely ending his Madison tenure having played roughly 77% of his possible minutes. And while you have to think he’s been a bit frustrated with a lack of service at times this season, Keegan co-leads the league in big chances missed with 12. It’s a stat you can’t really ignore, especially when he was brought in to score goals and if even half of that dozen had been converted, we’d be playing playoff football next weekend. Both he and former Greenville man Carlos Gomez will leave Madison a bit frustrated, but their wages can’t have been cheap coming in from Greenville and you’d expect more production from players who just won the league.

Finding Our Identity

This wasn’t the season most FMFC fans wanted, but in the final four games this team showed a level of fight and hustle largely absent since mid-August. Chatting with Connor Tobin after the match, I remarked I felt that the fighting spirit over the last few games is more this club’s true identity on the pitch, and one that the team needs to recognize and embrace. He agreed, and said that mentality can be tough for some of the younger, less experienced players to really grasp — but if there’s a chance a young player can learn that here, they can go on to do great things. Madison might not seem like it to outsiders, but it’s a gritty city. The whitewashed gentrified parts of this town are not the summation of many Madisonians’ experience, and while the football that represents this city should be attractive, it also needs to stop being so goddamned polite all the time.

Speaking of Turbo, after a long post-game chat with the gaffer near the center circle, Tobin made his way around the Flock End to shake hands, chat, hug, and pose for pictures with fans. He then hopped the barrier to step up and remind me to take in what I’ve helped to build, and delivered a bit of a speech to the Flock End:

This is what makes it special. Just look around at what you guys are building, and the sense of community. You don’t have to be a football fan, you don’t have to like any of that stuff. You have to like this (sweeps hands around Flock End), and you have to like making Madison a better place. And when it means something more than that (points out at the pitch), that’s what it’s fucking about. And it’s fucking incredible. I love you guys. This is awesome.

– Connor Tobin

Turbo is someone with whom I’ve developed an actual real life friendship, and from what he tells me he wants to play again next year, but it’s ultimately down to a club wanting to give a 35 year-old a contract. He’s helped make this club what it is these first three years, well beyond his contributions on the pitch (and the stats don’t lie, he’s a top 5 defensive player in USL1), and I’d echo his feelings about me right back at him.

While his legs may not be what they were 3 years ago, it’s interesting looking at defensive stats for USL1. Turbo is second in clearances with ~2.5x that of the person in 3rd. Migalhaes (who is only 27) is a big part of the reason Akira Fitzgerald has the most clean sheets in the league, and you have to imagine if we’d had another player of Turbo’s defensive quality along that back line, we’d probably have closed out more games as wins this season. Tobin is also 8th in the league in passing percentage, just 1.6% and 11.6 passes per match behind Molloy. If Madison doesn’t pick him up, I’d wager another USL1 club will. And after the past three years, that would be a tough pill to swallow.

There’ll be more season review / wrap-up type posts in the coming week or so, look for posts from myself, Kyle, and maybe even some new voices. In the meantime, enjoy a couple different angles of that sumptuous Christian Enriquez free kick.

Author

  • Andrew Schmidt

    Eclecticist, FMFC supporter, Flock co-founder, designer of things, and taker of photos. Writer, wrench, motorcyclist. Pro-intellectualist, anti-pedant. Drinker of coffee and greeter of dogs.

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