Sunday, July 14, 2024
Sunday, July 14, 2024

FMFC 3-0 Cleveland SC: Up For The Cup

Photo: Don Newton

Good Thursday all, it’s a wet and dreary one in the Madison area, a completely unhelpful weather situation for getting anything done but we persist nonetheless. Forward Madison fans will have a bit of a spring in their step today, knowing there’s more US Open Cup football on the docket for the Flamingos this season, as the boys cruised to a hard-fought 3-0 victory vs Cleveland SC. Sure, there’s that nagging feeling in the back of our minds knowing the 2021 league title holders are coming to town this weekend, but we’re not going to worry about that for now.

Much like this morning, yesterday evening brought bouts of squalls and spray, but (by my estimation) about ~1K fans braved the cold early April rain to cheer on the team. The mood for pre-match pints at Working Draft was a jovial one, if not a bit measured โ€” everyone was saying the same thing, “Cleveland SC is no joke…They may be amateur but they’re going to play hard, they want this win and I hope our guys bring the same intensity…We really need this one going into the weekend…How cool would it be to host a Championship or an MLS team in Madison?” There were also more nuanced questions being asked, such as why the club’s tofu banh mi has yet to make it on Footy Scran (my personal verdict: $12 ain’t scran prices, but that banh mi is worth every penny if you don’t do meat/eggs/dairy).

Match Recap

It was the 35th minute when the rain started coming sideways. I was trying to think back to the last time I’d been in these conditions, roughly 40F and driving spray in the face watching the football — it was April of 2018, standing seven rows back from the northwest corner flag at The Emirates, watching Aaron Ramsey dismantle CSKA Moscow with side-footed jumping volleys and clever backheels. Tonight it was different, a feeling of pride I’ll never feel in London no matter how much time I spend there โ€” Madison is home, and I was watching my local, my club face off for the first time in the US Open Cup at home. It’s the oldest ongoing national cup competition in the US, and one that brings teams of all different levels and players from all over the world. It’s been won by amateur and pro sides alike, and as we’ve seen even just this year, upsets are possible.

What started as a fairly end-to-end affair saw a Cleveland side whose shape and resolve started to slow and dissolve in the cold April rain, Bartman almost scoring on a breakaway in the 26th, and Justin Sukow finally breaking the deadlock in the 37th minute. Alann Torres saw his first competitive minutes for the club and what an introduction. A perfectly weighted diagonal aerial ball found Justin Sukow making a run into the 18 yard box, Sukow chests it down into his path, hoofs it on the half volley, ricocheting off Cleveland keeper Conor Cable and into the back of the net. It was a peach of a goal against the run of play, and some credit also ought to go to Audi Jepson for drawing his mark back toward goal, playing Sukow onside for Torres’ pass.

Madison’s second would arrive at the end of the first half via Cesar Murillo, who squared home a very 1990s England-style corner. Audi Jepson delivers a deadly corner to the far post, which is then headed into danger by Cyrus Rad and drilled across the mouth of goal back to the far post. If Tony Adams and Steve Bould wrote the book on this type of play, Audi, Cyrus, and Cesar have obviously taken a page out. A Brilliant goal for the defender and a very well-worked set piece in the end, Murillo followed up by running back to celebrate with the Madison bench.

Glaeser’s men went into the interval riding high on a 2 goal cushion, but it wouldn’t end there. Fresh legs came on to start the second half, with Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu coming on for Christian Enriquez. Fans were treated to fifteen more minutes of box-to-box battling before Glaeser subbed on Eric Leonard and Mikey Maldonado for Murillo and Rojay, which seemed more man management than a tactical change given the big weekend matchup. Alann Torres would again contribute to a third and final goal of the match in the 68th minute, taking two short stepovers and ripping a shot from the top of the box which Cable pushed wide. Who else would pop up near Cable’s far post than the in-form Nazeem Bartman, who pounced on Torres’ rebound and slid it into the bottom corner.

Jeremiah Streng and Matheus Cassini were subbed in for Jepson and Bartman in the 75th, and the sides would trade another shot apiece before full time. Phil was largely untroubled most of the evening, though did save both shots Cleveland put on frame. The stats don’t really tell the full story of his performance, as he was quite vocal all evening with his back line, who would manage 12 clearances. Torres would take home man of the match honors, scoring an 8.52/10 according to Fotmob’s stats people. Rojay managed a game high of 4 shots and Cesar and Torres would manage 86% and 85% passing accuracy on the night, respectively. Madison dominated possession at 64%, with 19 shots to Cleveland’s 5, and achieved an 85% passing completion (508 passes) to Cleveland’s 72% (245 passes). Madison’s defensive showing was impressive as well, winning 15 of 20 tackles and 20 interceptions.

We spoke with Alann Torres after the match, who expressed just how much it meant to play in front of the Madison faithful:

It was incredible. A great feeling. The fans came out to support and loved it, they brought the energy and that helped us out a lot. I’ve been ready for this, I feel like I’ve been storing this energy and finally got to release it, and man. I can’t even describe it. My mentality from here is to keep representing, both the club and myself, where I come from. There aren’t many pros that come from where I’m from. To be out here representing this club and my hometown, it’s incredible.

-FMFC midfielder and Elkhart, Indiana’s own Alann Torres

The Lineup

Cleveland SC were without target man Vinny Bell, a player who just might have added an extra spark to their attack. Given that Cleveland only managed 5 shots all game, you have to think a veteran striker would have made a difference. Madison rotated a good amount of the squad for this game, notably leaving Mitch Osmond and Eric Leonard on the bench and opting for a backline of Schneider, Murillo, and Rad.

Schneider is no stranger to the US Open Cup, providing continuity between last night’s game and the previous USOC game played at Breese Stevens, back in June of 2011 when he played for the Madison 56ers against Chicago Fire’s PDL side in a 2-0 loss. Schneider nearly opened scoring in the 26th off a volley from the corner following Bartman’s deflected shot, a backheel/sidefooted effort blocked by a goal line clearance. We caught up with Carl after the game to hear how it felt to be back at Breese in the Open Cup, this time in the Pink & Blue:

Playing out on this field, I’ll never take for granted again. It’s been a long time and the energy and that feeling when we score and the crowd erupts, I forgot about it and I love it. I saw on Twitter that I played in the last open cup game here, those photos with the giant mud puddle in the grass in front of the goal, and now you look around and it’s unbelievable how everything has grown.

Growing up I always thought people from Madison were underdogs. I feel vindicated that I was able to keep playing even though Madison doesnโ€™t have the exposure that other places have. My hope is that me being here opens opportunities for other players who grow up here.

-FMFC defender Carl Schneider

We’ll be back tomorrow (or early Saturday) with a preview of the Omaha match, thanks as always for reading and be on the lookout soon for ways you can help support the fan-voiced coverage NDZ provides. Cheers, and have a great one.


  • 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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