Iowa Raptors vs Bavarian S.C.: Midwest Premier League
Rami Scheetz- Iowa Raptors Journalist
Stellar Soccer Ends in a Standstill on Saturday
Cedar Rapids- Typically a 2-2 draw is not the most exciting score line in the beautiful game, but on Saturday this stigma could not be further from the truth. This weekend’s draw was a perfect example of a well-executed match plan from both the players and coaching staff on both sides. There was an energy of eagerness in the air during warm-ups, and one could feel that both squads were ready to ready to establish their dominance in the newly founded Midwest Premier League. Rarely in sports do both teams leave the pitch feeling content with how their respective sides dealt with adversity, responded accordingly, and produced moments of magic that players have dreamed of.
Shortly after the starting whistle was blown to begin this 90-minute chess match, Bavarian S.C. struck gold in the fourth minute of play. A goal kick for the Raptors quickly turned into a clinical line-drive finish from the Bavarian forward. The ball was won by the opposing center back with a great aerial challenge, leaping above Raptors striker Jayce Berger who has been a been a consistent source of offensive creativity for this MWPL Raptors side. If you blinked during this possession you may have missed its build-up. Within one pass in the Raptors third of the field, the ball was absolutely thumped into the bottom-right corner of the net from twenty-five yards out. 1-0 Bavarian S.C.
A visible change as a division one athlete in my own right was not one of a physical nature, but mental. In past games many heads on the Raptors’ side of the field would go down as soon as a goal was scored. This past Saturday I saw nothing of the sort. Encouragement rang through the ears of the players, as well no noticeable difference in body language. This is a massive contrast to recent outings, and a mental shift that should give Raptors fans a positive outlook on an otherwise slight lapse in defensive intensity in the first five minutes.
For the next ten minutes the Raptors men pushed the envelope, showing great urgency to create scoring chances in the first fifteen minutes. If this Raptors’ team, or any team for that matter, can establish efficient pressure in the first fifteen minutes of a game, they will be able to swing the possession percentage in their favor for the remaining seventy-five minutes. Their mental fortitude paid dividends as a free kick was awarded five yards out of the Bavarian eighteen-yard box in the 15th minute. After discussion between the free-kick takers of choice, defender Axel Vera stepped up from thirty yards and produced lightning from his left boot forcing a finger-tip save from the Bavarian keeper that ricocheted off the post, falling to striker Antonio Cuellar’s feet a for the easiest goal he will score this season. Axel Vera and Jonah Dancer have been conjuring their best Lionel Messi impressions over the past week producing screamers on their left sides.
Just two minutes later Raptors’ number eleven Muazu Sagir announced his campaign as a goal of the year candidate. Sagir received a sharp pass, put his head down while taking a soft prep-touch, and came up with an absolute dream of a curling left-footed strike. There is something in the Cedar Rapids water as twenty-five yard belters are becoming a bit of a common occurrence in the 319. Sagir has been phenomenal for the Raptors second team solidifying himself a role in every first division UPSL match.
From an outside perspective there are things that I could nitpick in defensive scheme from the Bavarians that lead to this two-goal turn around, but in all honesty there isn’t much that the Milwaukee side could have done to defend both goals that were laced in by the Raptors. Sometimes in sports athletes display acts of brilliance that leave spectators speechless, and opponents helpless.
For the next 60 minutes of play this game became one of physical and mental give and take. A Bavarian schematic change was made at halftime to close down space on Raptors midfielders. As soon as a Raptors attacking player touched the ball in the Bavarian defensive third, their space was immediately taken away. This compressed the space that was previously there for the Raptors, forcing rushed decisions and reluctance to work the ball to wide areas. This showed predictability in Raptors possession for the entire second half. This game was much more cerebral in a sense, similar to a world class chess match from both managers, resembling historic Mourinho and Guardiola battles of old. A goal was eventually scored by the Bavarians in the 60th minute of play in the second half ending the match at a 2-2 draw.
If you are an Iowa Raptors fan there is a lot to take away from Saturday’s result. The positives are plentiful in terms of mental fortitude, displays of talent, and most importantly connection as a unit between all three levels of play. They seem to be hitting their stride at the right time as the season is coming to an end, as inter-team chemistry looks to be rising the Raptors are looking for a late season push for the MWPL title. A deserving match ball was awarded to Muazu Sagir as he impressed many that were watching against the Milwaukee side.
Coach Kyle Bakas and the Iowa Raptors will look to continue their growth as a unit against Edgewater Castle F.C. on June 25th as they look to capture the sought after MWPL trophy, solidifying their place in history among the Iowa futból greats.