Eau Claire United Tournament Weekend
12 June by LS
The Strikers team made the quick trip to Eau Claire to play in their first tournament of the season. The schedule had the boys up early with a 7:15 game against Salvo SC from Woodbury, MN.
The game did not start well for the Strikers as they stuggled to get the ball out of their own half. This led to the opening goal in the 6th minute.
The Strikers started to respond, as Miles ghosted past the defense and leveled the score in the 11th minute.
Again the Strikers struggled with the passing and possession of Salvo, and again Salvo was able to find the back of the net in the 17th minute.
Brody surged forward and was fouled inside the box, drawing a PK, and Miles stepped up and converted to level the score at 2 in the 21st minute.
Only two minutes later, Miles came into the midfield and fired a long range shot that sailed over the keeper and into the back of the net to give the Strikers the lead going into the half.
Salvo started the second half with more intensity than the Strikers and were rewarded with a goal only three minutes into the half, once again levelling the score.
The Strikers did respond with Kael playing a wonderful ball to Gaige who ran onto it and placed it right into the back of the net.
That was about the end of the highlights for the Strikers, as the players began to look tired and missed some defensive assignments. Salvo scored two rapid fire goals and it seemed like the Strikers could not make much happen.
Mitchell made a number of saves but could not keep up with the shots and eventually another goal was scored by Salvo. The Strikers opening game ended with them on the short end of a 6-4 score.
Game number two was much later, with a 5:40 PM start for the Strikers against New Richmond.
The game opened in a much more positive fashion for the Strikers as Miles played a ball to Gaige who made no mistake in front of goal, giving the Strikers a 1-0 lead in the second minute.
The Strikers gained control after the New Richmond kickoff and Nathan fired a shot that the goalie could not control and Gaige was in the right place to tap home his second goal only three minutes into the game.
The defense was much better for the Strikers as Jackson W was clearing his lines and keeping Mitchell free of any hard work for the remainder of the first half. The Strikers offense could not muster any goals despite many chances, so they went to the break up 2-0.
The second half opened brightly again, as Nathan was pushing forward and fired a shot that the keeper could not handle and Gaige latched on and fired into net for his hat trick only three minutes into the second half.
Just two minutes later, the Strikers won a free kick and Gaige stepped up to take the kick and curled it toward the goal. The New Richmond keeper came out for it and got fingers to it, but it ended up in the back of the net, giving the Strikers a 4-0 lead.
Gaige continued his hot streak as in the 44th minute he followed a pass that was deflected and picked it up inside the box, made a single move and once again scored a goal, his fifth of the game.
While five might be fine, Miles found Gaige streaking down the left side again, beating the defense and once again making no mistake in his sixth goal of the contest with only three minutes to play.
The final score was 6-0 with Gaige getting a double hat trick.
This result got the Strikers out of their pool to play the FC Chievo side that won their group on Sunday at noon.
The semi-final game was underway and the Strikers controlled the ball for large periods of the opening 10 minutes, keeping the Chievo team off the ball.
The defense was outstanding and Jackson S, Jackson W and Tatem cleared several chances and Mitchell cleaning up the balls that did make their way to him every time.
In the 26th minute, Miles drove the left wing, cut inside, and then back out and fired a left footed shot pas the keeper giving the Strikers a 1-0 lead, that they kept until the halftime break.
The Strikers seemed to believe they could win the game as they came out strong again in the second half. However, Chievo was not going to give up. In the 35th minute, the Chievo forward fired a laser that Mitchell made a great save on to keep the 1-0 lead.
Grant was working hard to keep the defense clean, breaking up play all over the midfield and Nathan and Caleb ran until they could not run anymore, chasing balls on the wings and putting pressure on the Chievo players. Brody did the same up top and also kept the pressure on the defense. Kael did a great job controlling the ball and Landon won a key 50-50 ball, clearing it forward as the Strikers fiercely battled to keep the 1-0 lead.
In the 49th minute, a Chievo player handled the ball in the 18 yard box, and the referee awarded a penalty. Gaige stepped up and made no mistake, hammering the ball into the back of the net and giving the Strikers a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes to play.
With the two goal lead and time in their favor, the Strikers defense kept pushing the ball upfield and away from goal, and closing down space for the Chievo players, and the final whistle blew with the Strikers advancing to the tournament final.
The final was a rematch of the opening game, with the Strikers set to face Salvo FC again, this time for the title.
In a much better start than the first game, the Strikers did not concede early possession and really kept the ball well.
Only six minutes into the game, Miles took a shot from 30 yards out as he saw the keeper off his line and helpless to do anything but watch it fly into the back of his net, giving the Strikers an early 1-0 lead.
Once again the Strikers defense was outstanding, with Jackson S, Jackson W, Tate and Landon keeping the ball to the outside and out of the trouble spots for the most part. Grant was rock solid again, breaking up attempted passes from Salvo and generally making things difficult for Salvos attacking player. Mitchell was called on a few times, making most of it look simple. With his huge kicks out of the goal, the Strikers were able to kick start their attacks.
Just before half time, Kael made a surging run and Miles spotted him with a quick pass that Kael controlled expertly. He picked his head up and fired into the back of net giving the Strikers a 2-0 lead as they went into halftime.
Salvo started the second half stronger than the Strikers, and were rewarded with a goal in the 35th minute, making the scoreline 2-1 and causing some anxious moments for all.
However, all the Strikers players buckled down and focused on the task at hand, playing good defensive soccer and making their attacks count. The game was still up tempo and play was continuing to burst forward for the Strikers, but Gaige, Brody, Nathan and Caleb could not find a way through the Salvo defense.
With no choice left but to be more aggressive, Salvo started moving a few more players into attack, which opened the door for the Strikers attack. The play started with the defense clearing the ball and moving the ball to the outside where Gaige tracked down a long pass on the left side. He went 1-1 with the first defender on the touch line dancing toward goal where the central defender and goalie came over to challenge. Gaige picked up his head and found Nathan just outside the six yard box. Nathan took one touch, then another, and just when you thought the chance was passed, he fired a rocket into the back of the net.
With only a few minutes to play, you could see the Strikers elation, knowing they just had to keep the ball out of their own net.
As the final whistle of the tournament sounded, the Strikers ended up champions of the EC Invitational.