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Author Topic: Milwaukee, WI - Croatian Eagles win USASA National Open Cup Championship
JohnB
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Post Milwaukee, WI - Croatian Eagles win USASA National Open Cup Championship
on: July 24, 2012, 16:43
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Congratulations to the Croatian Eagles Mens (Majors) team that one our club's first national championship over the weekend. Unfortunately our club's U23 team lost 1:0 in the national final. Another Croatian team, Chicago RWB Adria lost in the national amateur cup final to that weekend. Still impressive to have 3 Croatian clubs in these national finals. All the matches are set to be televised on Fox Soccer Channel at a later date. I believe the RWB Adria match is this Thursday, July 26th at 7:00 PM. Not sure yet when the Croatian Eagles matches will be shown.

Link to picture of the Championship team:

https://picasaweb.google.com/usasasoccer/2012NationalCupFinals#5768509581285517634

Link to a video someone posted of a regional victory leading up to the championship:

Here is a write up on the Croatian Eagles team's matches from a local WI soccer site:
Croatian Eagles win first national title

The Croatian Eagles Soccer Club celebrated its 90th anniversary Saturday.

A day later, there was even more reason to celebrate.

Substitute Ramon "Choko" Alvarado (Franklin) scored in the 119th minute as the Croatians outlasted California's PSA Elite 3-2 after extra time in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Men's Open Cup final Sunday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., to claim the club's first national championship.

"I really felt this was our time," Eagles coach Al Toth said as he headed back to Croatian Park in Franklin, WI for what surely was an extra-special final night of the annual Croatian Fest. "I just felt like everything would fall into place and it did."

The Eagles took the lead three times in the match at the home of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, but short-handed PSA Elite couldn't find another equalizer in the second of two 15-minute periods of extra time.

The Region IV champions were down to 10 men when Alvarado scored after a player was sent off following his second yellow card, and shortly thereafter they were reduced to nine when a player was injured and had to be take off on a stretcher – he couldn't be replaced because PSA Elite already had used all four of its substitutes.

"I felt a little bit better, but soccer is sometimes a funny and cruel sport," Toth said. "You just never know. So until I heard the final whistle, I didn't relax. I was tense. When I heard the final whistle, it was great."

Croatians are the second Wisconsin team to win the USASA National Open Cup, following the titles won by Wisconsin Major League rival Bavarian SC in 2003 and '09.

As he did in Friday's 4-0 victory over Texas' ASC New Stars in the semifinals, veteran attacking midfielder Jason Willan (Menomonee Falls) put the Eagles in front in the opening quarter hour. This time, their 40-year-old curled a free kick from just outside the box on the left side around the wall and just inside the far post in the 14th minute.

"It was just classic Jason Willan. I've seen him do that many times," Toth said of the former pro. "Kind of fitting that he's getting close to ending his career, and our captain, our statesman scores a free kick like that.

"I really don't know what his plans are, I know he's going to take some time to think about it. ... But one of the things that he said is that he'd really like to go out on top. Winning a national championship, you can't go out any higher than that."

PSA Elite leveled about 15 minutes later. The Eagles failed to clear out a corner kick, and a PSA Elite player whipped in a cross that was headed in at the post – Croatians goalkeeper Ante Cop could only get a hand to it.

It remained 1-1 until the 75th, when Philip Surprise (Milwaukee Pius) scored his second goal of the weekend to put the Eagles back ahead. "He got some really good separation, he bodied the guy and then he was able to get enough on the shot ... it wasn't hard, but it was perfect placement with his left foot," Toth said.

Another failed clearance just 6 minutes later led to another equalizer for PSA Elite, this time a first-time strike from 6 yards out that again left Cop with little chance of keeping it out. "There was no way to save that," Toth said.

Still, the manager figured his team had another goal in them.

"I was pretty confident that we'd be able to find that third goal in overtime," said Toth, whose team needed penalty kicks to claim the Wisconsin Open Cup title last October after a 2-2 draw with the Milwaukee Kickers.

Alvarado, a 30-year-old who has played in the club since his youth soccer days, was "itching to get in," Toth said, and made a big impact when he got on the pitch.

First, he broke free and looked to be headed in alone on goal in the 100th before he was taken down by a PSA Elite defender, which led to a second yellow card and a man advantage.

Nine minute later, he ran onto a through ball from fellow substitute Mohammed Sethi (Mequon Homestead) on the left side and scored one of the biggest goals for Croatian Eagles SC since the club was formed in 1922.

"He just buried it," Toth said of Alvarado, who also scored in the semifinal. "He did a clinical finish, he opened up his hips and with the inside of his right foot just curled it to the far post."

And that was enough for the Eagles to claim the giant silver Cup for the first time.

Toth said one of the first things they did with the trophy was to add one of the armbands they and the members of the club's Under-23 team wore this weekend honoring teammate Craig Carlson (Grafton/Carroll), who passed away last weekend at the age of 25.

The Croatians, who are 23-1-3 in all competitions in a season that started back in September, have one match left: the Major League final against Madison United. That game originally was scheduled for Sunday but had to be moved because of the national final – it was rescheduled for Aug. 5 at Croatian Park.

Men's Under-23

The Croatians' younger team couldn't complete the sweep.

New York's Real Caribe scored after a set piece about 25 minutes into the match and made the slim lead stand up the rest of the way in a 1-0 victory over the Eagles in the final.

"The second half, we just pushed and pushed and pushed and got some some chances," said Croatians coach Patrick Hodgins, whose team ousted reigning champion Carolina RailHawks 4-3 on penalty kicks Friday following a 0-0 draw in the semifinals. "They had two pretty big center backs who ate up a lot of the crosses we tried to play in. They did a good job when they had the lead.

"At the end of the day, the more I think about it, you've got to be really proud of what you've accomplished. Finishing national runner-up isn't the title that we wanted, but it's nothing to be ashamed of."

The game's lone goal came after a corner kick. The Eagles didn't clear it all the way and the ball fell to a Real Caribe attacker who saw keeper Bryce Boyd (Milwaukee Marquette/UW-Milwaukee) off his line – he had come out for the corner – and took a shot. Boyd got a piece of the ball, but couldn't keep it out of the net.

UWM midfielder Cody Banks (Madison Memorial), Marquette striker Adam Lysak (Milton) – he played the full 90 minutes despite being questionable after aggravating a shoulder injury in the semifinals – and center back Steven Perinovic (Kettle Moraine) all had good chances for the Croatians, but they came away empty-handed.

It didn't help that Marquette midfielder Ryan Robb had to leave the match at halftime because of a concussion.

"To be honest, that really hurt us," said Hodgins, who switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 and then to a 3-4-3 in the second half in search of the elusive equalizer. "Ryan's been one of our playmakers and without him, it really took a dent out of our midfield."

The Eagles still have two matches left this summer, as they are undefeated in the Illinois State Soccer Association Under-23 League heading into the final week of the season. They also were playing in the Wisconsin Soccer Association U-23 League and finished champions of that league.

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