License to Thrill
Milwaukee Bavarians Outlast Sporting Arizona in wild UPSL Spring Final
If the United Premier Soccer League was hoping for the perfect end to their 2018 Spring Season, then it was probably pretty pleased when the National Playoffs produced Milwaukee Bavarians Soccer Club and Sporting AZ FC of Chandler, Arizona as the two national finalists. These are two teams of absolute quality demonstrated on the national stage. Sporting AZ showed its skill by defeating Phoenix Rising of the USL in the US Open Cup earlier this year. Bavarians were fresh off of a USASA Amateur Cup victory, their fifth time lifting that trophy. However, great clubs often meet and sometimes the games do not live up to the billing. With Bavarians outlasting Sporting AZ 3-2 across 90+ enthralling minutes, this match absolutely did.
Things started fairly quickly for Milwaukee. With Sporting sitting a bit deep early, Bavarians were dominating the ball and creating the more concrete chances. It took just a quarter of an hour for them to open the scoring, with Nick Marshall rising highest in the box on a corner to direct a glancing header inside Sporting’s right hand post. From there, the game changed. Sporting created a couple good chances, with particularly good combinations down the right between Tony Cascio and Eijin Kishimoto. Sporting looked sure to equalize, but having been denied a clear cut chance at one end, it conceded a clear cut chance at the other when Nick Wilson was sent through on goal by some excellent combination play. He made no mistake one-on-one with the keeper and things were looking bleak for Sporting right before the halftime whistle.
Having conceded just before the half, Sporting could have easily seen this game as gone, but refused to quit. It started the second half strong but once again was hit when it seemed likely to score. Braden Andryk of Bavarians played a ball toward Scott Lorenz at the top of the 18 yard box. The former Sporting Kansas City and Fort Lauderdale Strikers man turned and made absolutely no mistake as he fired a rocket into the top right corner, leaving Sporting keeper Andrew Weber with no chance.
This felt like the dagger. For Milwaukee, the 3-0 lead, even with 37 minutes left to play, felt solid. For Sporting, it just did not feel like its day. But things started to turn in the second half as Sporting again created chances and looked to get back into the game. David Alton and Paul Lamarca had chances and there was an indirect free kick given from six yards out that Bavarians kept out by sticking all eleven players between the posts. Then, a foul in the box by Bavarians’ first goal scorer, Nick Marshall gave Sporting its chance. Alejandro Aguilar converted fantastically from the spot to give AZ a glimmer of hope. That turned into a spark just a minute later when Tony Cascio went storming down the left hand side and crossed for Daniel Arrubla who smashed a low, hard shot into Bavarians net. Suddenly, it was 3-2 and with 20 minutes still to play, anything seemed possible.
The comeback was not to be, however. Sporting AZ earned another penalty in the 79th minute but in a decision that will surely be critiqued, Aguilar did not take the penalty. Lamarca stepped up and although he put plenty of power behind it, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar and the last true chance for an equalizer vanished into the distance along with it. The remaining minutes had a few more glimmers, but the light had burned out along with the legs of the players of both teams. Three matches over three days turned the Final into a war of attrition, which Bavarians were able to win.
This showcase for the UPSL, all of which was streamed for free on MyCujoo, should serve as a reminder of the level of quality at the amateur levels of the game. In addition, it should serve as a reminder of the quality of the organizations and people involved in them. Milwaukee Bavarians and Sporting AZ are great examples of how clubs should operate and they put on a great show. Luckily, the UPSL Fall Season is right around the corner, so we do not have to wait long to see great clubs entertain us again.
- Phil Baki