19 July 2012
The Strikers played two friendly games as a final tune-up for the Milk Cup, which begins Saturday. The team traveled to Belfast to take on the Crusaders at their home ground, Seaview Park. Their stadium is a lovely ground with enormous character. The filed is one of only a handful of turf pitches in Northern Ireland. Please see the following link for a 360-degree view of the stadium.
The Crusaders senior team won the Irish League Cup in the 2011-2012 season and they were qualified for Champions League Playoffs. The club graciously agreed to host our Premier and Junior lads in preparation for the Milk Cup.
By game time, the rain had completely stopped. The sky was full of puffy white clouds and the temperature was warm. It was a perfect day for soccer.Both games were clean, hard fought affairs. There were no serious injuries, but the usual bumps and bruises were felt on both sides.
In the opening match, the Juniors played with intensity and high energy from the beginning of the game. The Strikers controlled possession and territory throughout the game, and generally had the run of play. The defense played very well, rarely allowing the Crusaders entry to the Strikers’ half of the field. The tempo and pressure were high. The Strikers passes were sharp, with many excellent crosses resulting in shots on goal. Although the Strikers had a number of near misses, they did connect on three shots: an assist by Mark Calderon to Greg Osegueda to score the first goal; Robbie Knights putting a great ball through to Ivan to score from the right side; and then an assist from Mathew gooden to set up Arthur to score the final goal of the day. The Strikers’ strong defense kept the Crusaders scoreless. It was a comprehensive victory for the Juniors, and a true team effort as all the boys played and contributed. Their confidence should be high heading into the opening tournament match on Saturday.
The Premier game was much more evenly, and hotly, contested. Several of the Crusaders are bound for the professional club next year. The game was played at a fast pace indeed, both sides constantly applying pressure on both ends of the field. The Crusaders are a very physical team; they are aggressive and quick and strong to the ball. The Crusaders were well organized and gave our lads a very strong challenge.
As in the Juniors game, our passing was very strong and accurate, with crosses leading to numerous shots on goal. In the first half, Strikers scored the only goal of the match when a creative scoop pass from Abu set up Christian Thierjung to beat the crusaders keeper with an outstanding volley shot. The Strikers had the majority of shots and possession in the first half, but the Crusaders substantially closed the gap in the second half. At the end of the day, the single first-half score was the only goal, and the Strikers walked away with a win in a hard-fought contest.
Many thanks to the Crusaders for the games, their hard work, their strong play, and their sportsmanship. Both teams played hard and fair, and we hope to make it a custom to play the Crusaders whenever we come to Milk Cup Tournament.