The 2021 Iowa Raptors men’s soccer team looked to build from last year’s successful season after bringing home the 2020 Heartland Super Cup. Raptors returned some familiar faces and brought new ones in under the management of new Head Coach José Fajardo. The team would end up with a regular season record of 5 wins, 1 draw, and 2 losses.
The Raptors jumped up to a strong start in the first home game with a 2-0 win against United Serbian SC. The team showed quality, but room for improvement.
The following weekend the Raptors played their second home game, versus Springfield FC. Raptors went to halftime down 0-2. The team showed personality and fought back with energy in the second half of the match. Raptors eventually tied up the match in the final minutes and created multiple opportunities to go-ahead in scoreboard, but ultimately would have to settle for a 2-2 draw at home.
Less than 24 hours later the Iowa Raptors travelled to Milwaukee, WI to face a tough opponent for the first away match of the year. Raptors would see their first loss of the year with a final score of 1-3.
One week later the team looked to bounce back after a tough defeat on the road. Raptors faced the Milwaukee Bavarians at home. The match versus the Bavarians boosted the team with confidence with a massive 4-1 win in front of home fans.
In the final home game of the regular season the Raptors would feed off their confidence from the previous match when they faced Mad City FC for the first time in the season. The match started off slow and ended 1-0 at halftime. The team would make a huge difference in the second half coming up with another massive 4-0 victory. This win brought the second win in a row and third of the season at home.
Having played their final regular season game at home the previous weekend meant that the Raptors would have to travel away for their last three matches of the season before playoffs. The first of three away games started in Springfield, IL where the Raptors went up on the score first. The match would end up 1-2 in favor of Springfield FC. The last two matches were against Mad City FC and Milwaukee Bavarians FC. The team was able to get two great wins on the road that helped secure the 2nd spot in conference championship, which the Iowa Raptors hosted.
At the conference tournament the Raptors had to face once again the Bavarians. The match was a hard fought battle that resulted in a 0-0 draw in regular time. The difference would come in overtime where the team put away 2 goals and beat Bavarians for a third time in the season. The following day the Raptors played the championship match versus United Serbian SC. The team came out strong despite having played 120+ minutes the previous day. The game ended 3-1 and the Iowa Raptors were crowned Champions of the Midwest Central Division.
In the National Championship Round of 32 the Iowa Raptors travelled to Chicago,IL to face the champions of the Midwest Central Division, Detroit United FC. The Raptors continued to show great soccer by beating Detroit 2-0 and advancing to the Round of 16 in the National Championship. For the next match the Raptors travelled to Minnesota to play Minneapolis City SC. The Raptors would take the lead, but Minneapolis City answered back before half. In the final minutes of regular time Raptors took the lead to 2-1, but Minneapolis would tie it up just before the final whistle. Unfortunately, Raptors season would come to an end losing the match in penalty kicks.
We asked Head Coach Jose what his thoughts were and this is what he had to say:
“We started the year with many new faces, including mine, and no time to make mistakes. So, we experimented as we tried to win games and the result was fantastic, but still, when you are trying to make experiments and see results, you know you that are going to fail in the lab before you can see the final and great product. But I can’t truly be prouder of our season.
We played some of the best soccer out there, our players improved tremendously, we were as good or better than any team we played and I truly believe that this team should have been in LA playing for the championship. But that will be the goal next year and now that we have more time to prepare and more time to make things better, we will get there.
Hats off to everyone who helped this team to be a better one and extra hats off to all the players who made us so proud with their love and commitment to our organization”.