Strikers at the Milk Cup
Final Day of Competition
26 July 2012
Today was the final day of competition in the 2012 Milk Cup. The weather was perfect - there was no need for a jacket or a sweater. The sky was Carolina blue, with a few light wispy clouds, and the temperature was really warm. A slight breeze was blowing. A perfect day for soccer.
Both Strikers teams would be playing their sixth game in seven days, and the experience seemed to weigh on them. Both played hard and intensely, but the fatigue seemed palpable.
The Juniors were up against a committed, hard physical side from North Dublin. It was difficult for either team to control the ball for any length of time, as both defenses came hard at the ball throughout the game. There were a sizeable number of fouls and yellow cards (some deserved, some not), but overall the quality of the officiating was very good, unlike the Monday and Tuesday games. Both sides had opportunities and took shots, but the defenses held as both goalkeepers played well. North Dublin played long ball throughout the first half when they were running downhill, and tried to do the same in the second half, but had to resort to a shorter game. Our boys played their usual short passing game, with some long kicks from time to time. Despite the continuing attacks from both teams, the score was 0-0 at the half.
The second half started and both sides continued their frantic attacks and aggressive defense. At seven minutes gone, Mark Calderon was brought down in the box, and Robert Knights converted the penalty kick, 1-0 Strikers. North Dublin continued to attack, and the referee played four minutes extra time, before finally blowing the whistle.
The Juniors deserved the hotly contested victory. Both sides put everything they had into the game, but the Juniors were the better team and earned their victory fair and square. They became the first Strikers team to earn a trophy at the Milk Cup. It was a tremendous team effort.
The Premiers were up against a terrific team in Etoile Lusitana. Etoile was founded on 20 April 2008 by the famous Jose Mourinho, the “Special One”, who owns 80% of the team. The team is based in Dakar, Senegal. They won the 2010 Milk Cup Premier competition. The name (“Lusitanian Star” in English) is taken from the ancient name of the Roman Province in Portugal. They have produced numerous players for the European professional leagues.
Etoile is an extremely talented and well-coached team. They play the game skillfully at a furious pace. Although many of their players are tall, they are also agile.
The Olders played Etoile evenly throughout the first half. Both sides attacked constantly, and both sides defended vigorously. The defenses were so quick that possession changed quickly, with counterattacks ensuing. By game time, the pitch had become quite warm. The field was large, and the players were running unceasingly. Both sides began to tire, but the Strikers, after the previous night’s victory over Manchester United, seemed to slow a bit as time dragged on. Both sides had chances in the first half, but neither could score, and the half ended 0-0.
In the second half, the teams continued their rapid pace. Eventually, however, Etoile was able to score twice from open play. They might have had more, but for the superb game by goalkeeper Carl Rubschlager, who made four remarkable saves and many others. Again, the Strikers had numerous chances including a penalty kick but were unable to capitalize. It was just not our day.
The Premiers played hard and well, and have nothing to be ashamed of in taking second place in the Globe competition against such an outstanding opponent.
It cannot be denied that this year’s Strikers teams played exceedingly well and deserved their victories. The lads are learning how physically demanding European football is; how quickly the defense comes to the ball; how difficult it is for an American team to win here; and other important lessons. They represented their country with honor and distinction, and all of their parents and coaches should be very proud of them.
Well done, Strikers!