2021 US Donauschwaben Recap, by Jason Karasow

Game I – Saturday 12 pm noon vs Cleveland

     The team and supporters came in ready to go for our first game vs Cleveland Concordia. The lengthy bus trip full of first teamers and supporters did nothing but raise expectations. The objective for the weekend was simple: bring the trophy home from a trip outside Philadelphia for the first time in our history.

     The Super Fans were cracking beers as the kick off whistle was sounding. The heavy rain the night before made for a slick surface and both teams were buzzing. Rumors that Cleveland brought in a U-23 select team seemed true as both teams were knocking it around with much more pace than normally seen in a Major Division game. There were no signs of nerves on the U.G.H. side as we started to get the better of play and chances. The Cleveland goalie was quick off his line on a few chances to eliminate any U.G.H. opportunity at the goal.  The halftime whistle blew and it was 0:0.  More of the same quick play with limited chances for both teams in the second half and it ended at 0:0. Even though a win was the desired result, a loss in game 1 is very difficult to come back from in a round robin so our club was moderately pleased with the result.

Game II – Saturday 2 pm vs Akron

     Although Akron generally isn’t the strongest team of the competition, you can never take the host team lightly. They already had one win on the day, and U.G.H. could not afford to go winless in its first two games. That’s a recipe for disaster at this tournament. As the schnapps began to get passed around for kick off in game 2 it was more of the same for the German Hungarians. The staff had been preaching to the team that a tight defense was needed for the weekend. It was easy to see that they were delivering. The combination of Stevie Paul and James Brett in net, along with a defense consisting of Gabe Dwyer, Connor Sullivan, Dylan McDonald, Pat Raykovitz, and Ken Lassiter were completely shutting down the Akron attack. Seems this was a preview for the rest of the teams of what they’d be getting through our backline. Answer: nothing.

     The U.G.H. attack, however was sputtering along not creating much danger. A half chance here and there until up popped our longest tenured player Ken Tomczuk. Not known for his scoring, our current Captain and two time Donauschwaben winner came up big when it mattered most. A loose ball popped out to Ken and he unleashed a laser into the top corner that left the goalie hopeless. U.G.H. would see the game out and come away with the 1:0 win. Not sure if it was the Hofbrau on draft, the schnapps, a win and a tie after two games, or maybe a combo but the SuperFans were starting to assert themselves as the “12th Man” and best supporter group of the tourney.

Game III – Saturday 5 pm vs Detroit

     Our third test of the day was expected to be the toughest. Detroit Carpathia has won more Donauschwaben Tournaments that any other club including five of the last eight played. Also at stake was the recently created Peter Schock Cup. Peter Schock was one of the founders of U.G.H., and it was recently found out that after he moved from Philadelphia he settled in the Detroit area and helped found the Carpathia Club. A very interesting piece of history. Now, whenever these two storied clubs face each they play for the traveling “Peter Schock Cup.” Detroit won it during the inaugural game in 2019 and held onto it for an extra year due to the Covid hiatus but U.G.H. was ready to win it back.

     It was a very similar story in game three for U.G.H. Another strong outing from the backline and the goalie tandem limited Detroit to no clear chances. Again, U.G.H. had better of possession but weren’t testing the goalie. Sometimes when you’re not scoring during the flow of play you have to focus on free kicks and that’s what the team did.

     A near post Nick Jachwak in swinger led to a missed flick on at the near post and then a tap in at the far post by none other than Captain Ken Tomczuk. Ken must have been rolling back the years to his intramural days because that was two in one day for him, when he might not have scored two in the last five years for the Major Team! The boys hung on for the 2nd win of the day and their first trophy of the weekend. The “Peter Schock Cup,” was coming back to Philly and after a brief and confusing presentation by Mike Talan the traveling parties from both sides joined for a large group picture.

     They say defense wins championships and we were hoping to do just that. At the end of the first day, U.G.H. had a record of 2-1-0 with only two goals scored and none against. By now the refreshments were being passed around, the travelers were in full voice and the only task left for the night was keeping the team under control for the evening. After a nice schnitzel dinner in the clubhouse it was back to the hotel lobby for additional beverages and wurst. Steve Paul and his multiple Sous Chefs put together a marvelous spread enjoyed by all. It wasn’t long before the hotel manager came huffing and puffing his way to the lobby with threats of calling the police. Shortly a second manager came storming in yelling “DISPERSE,” but cooler heads prevailed (except for Joe Reiter who I think is still mad), and the party quieted but continued. Maybe next time somebody should hide Bob Walters DJ set up…there was also talk of a Bull Shit room for next year.

Sunday

     Sunday started with two separate stretching sessions for the players while the fans shook off the cobwebs. The breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express left a little to be desired but we wouldn’t let that deter us from accomplishing our goal. The bus arrived at the host club around 10:40 and the beers were flowing by 10:45 for the SuperFans. One of the players was overheard saying, “I think we’re pretty good at soccer, but our fans are professionals.” 

Game IV – Sunday 12 pm Noon vs Mansfield

    One of the strengths of the team coming into the tournament was our depth and after a tiring first day the staff decided to rotate players against Mansfield, now led by former U.G.H. player Robbie Stewart. Robbie has put together a very young and competitive squad. Sasha Malofiy got the start at left back and went the full distance. Towards the end of the first half, the pass of the tournament came from Matt Sullivan as he dropped a long ball over the center backs and right into Jason Pixley’s stride.  Pixley maintained his composure and after the ball settled he first timed it to the far corner. As the ball rolled towards the net the only concern would be a bad U.G.H. hop taking it outside the post but the Akron field was more forgiving and it bulged the old onion bag. At halftime, the staff continued to rotate and brought on young Jake Hubert for his Major Team debut. As the second half continued Dave McCall continued to terrorize and get behind his man. On this occasion he sent a deep cross collected by Devon Memis who cut it back to Jake to smash home with his weaker right foot. The supporters and players celebrated knowing the occasion as Jake scored on his debut! It was the loudest cheer of the weekend as the team saw off a 2:0 win.

Game V – 2 pm vs Milwaukee

     Round Robins are extremely tricky and leave no room for mistakes. After four games, U.G.H. record sat at 3-1-0. However, they still needed a positive result against Milwaukee Sport Club, the reigning champions. A loss would see U.G.H. eliminated and watching Milwaukee in the final against an already qualified Cleveland.

     Before either team could allow the nerves to settle in, an early goal came by U.G.H.’s Matt Sullivan. Played in by Jason Rocha, lead assist man for the weekend, our older Sully made no mistake. With his first touch he buried it near post and the goalie had no chance. Rumors began to make the rounds thru the stands that the Milwaukee goalie was seen drinking heavily the night before while losing to U.G.H. at “fingers.”

     U.G.H. continued to apply pressure and after a forced defensive mistake Nick Jachwak played in Jason Rocha to slot home and get us into halftime 2:0. Even though we knew a push was coming from Milwaukee to start the second half we were still able to rotate players to rest some guys for the final. Sasha Malofiy came on again at left back and completely shut down one of the top attacking players in the tournament. Our front three were pressing high and causing turnovers and we added on another. Jason Rocha played the ball into Devon Memis whose audacious flick caromed off the far post and in. Make it two losses to U.G.H. on the weekend for the Milwaukee goalie and we went into the final after the 3:0 win. The Milwaukee staff congratulated us and said we were the best team of the weekend.

Game VI – 5 pm vs Cleveland: Championship Final

     By now all of the other games for the tournament was completed so it was prime time for the Championship with all other players and spectators focused on the final. They created the environment that sounded more like several thousand, not several hundred. The players seemed ready to go, but unfortunately got off to a very slow start against a good Cleveland team. Halfway through the first half and we were still finding our way into the game. Eventually our central midfield combination of Joe Hansen, Ken Tomczuk, Matt Sullivan, and Dan Grindrod began to take over the game. Joe Hansen was surely one of the unsung players of the weekend. If you’re watching our games you might not notice Joe out there, but you definitely notice when he’s not there. As we started to gain momentum Joe was able to get himself further forward than normally. He beat one Cleveland player and then another bundled him over in the box. The man in the middle from Aachen Germany waived play on. Later he said, “The player was searching for it and it wasn’t enough for a final.”

     A few minutes later as we continued to pressure, Gabe Dwyer rose highest to meet a corner and powered it just over the bar. We went into halftime at 0:0.  The feeling was we weren’t at our best. Coach Karasow had saved the hair dryer treatment for the big game and the players responded accordingly in the second half. U.G.H. controlled the play for the entire second with the ball in Cleveland’s defensive half for most of the period. Cleveland resorted to fouling because they couldn’t stop us any other way. Another penalty shout turned away after Jason Rocha beat his man on the end line. Later we found out the ref was going to give if but his AR said no through the headset system. It just seemed like we couldn’t get the break we deserved and regulation ended 0:0. Two quick 5 minute overtime periods ended without a goal as both teams came out playing not to lose instead of forcing play. The main highlight of the OT was U.G.H. keeper James Brett making the save of the tournament as he pushed a back post header over the bar. It was on to kicks from the mark.

     Matt Sullivan shot first and their goalie saved well. With that momentum swung to Cleveland. Cleveland’s first shooter was one of the best players of the tournament and he walked up confidently. However, James Brett with his first big save of the shootout as he almost reached the post blocking the excellent shot. Dan Grindrod stepped up for U.G.H. and hit the underside of the crossbar and down but not across. Maybe it just wasn’t our day was the thought throughout the team.  But James Brett stepped up and saved his second of the shootout. Pat Raykovitz and then Jason Rocha made their shots as well as their Cleveland counterparts.  Devon Memis stepped up for the fifth shot and put his foot thru it to give the keeper no chance.  He went right to James for words of encouragement.

     Cleveland’s fifth shooter made the long walk up from half-line with all the pressure on his shoulders. He shot to his left and as James Brett dove he reached his hand up to make the save and the team met the on-rushing supporters who ran down the hill in the corner for the celebration. U.G.H. had finally won the Donauschwaben Tournament outside of Philadelphia. Schnapps, speeches, celebration at the clubhouse and back at the hotel continued into the early morning.

Monday
     Monday morning at a quick meeting before boarding the bus a few players were given out awards as the team MVP of the Weekend. Keepers Stevie Paul and James Brett both earned theirs as the team went the whole tournament without conceding a goal. I have no idea the last time that happened. The award for field player went to Matt Sullivan. Sully was one of our hardest working, probably most fouled player, and popped up with important goals and assists the whole weekend. The bus trip home from these tournaments is usually a quiet and sleepy ride, but not this one. A boot that had been long in hibernation finally made its re-appearance. Beers, schnapps, and singing kept the old timers awake and some of the players needed rides home when we were dropped at the Ft. Washington Train Station. Legend has it that one of the players still had his uniform on when he called out of work on Tuesday morning.
     A successful trip on and off the field.  We might not have a home building, field, or bar, but we’re a strong club and we will keep the tradition going as long as possible.

Personal Notes from Me:

     I wanted to add a couple notes and personal message regarding the trip. I’ve been involved with soccer for almost 40 years now. I’ve never seen a more complete team win than I saw this weekend. We started with a roster of 17 and picked up Jake Hubert along the way to make it 18. Everybody played their role to perfection. Everybody played significant minutes against quality competition and there was no drop-off from 1-18. If one of the 18 doesn’t go on this trip I don’t know if we win it.

     My goal as a player and now coach is to have the other team come off that field after a U.G.H. win and make a comment like, “Wow, that team is good. No way we could have beat that team.”

To receive a compliment like that from the opposing team is why I still compete. Trophies obviously top that, but that winning desire and edge is what drives us and our team. It’s been a challenging few years since our core group of players from the late 2000s all retired, but I feel like we have finally turned a corner and this is further evidence of that. We have a talented group of mostly younger players that are starting to understand what it means to play for U.G.H. It certainly helped that 15 of our members made the trip with us and I was glad to see the players and members getting to know each other.

     A couple special shout outs. First to Sasha Malofiy. This was Sasha’s ninth time playing in this tournament.  Most of those years were on the road and to put it nicely we didn’t travel with the best team and he took some bad losses on those tough trips. He deserved this win as much as anybody and I’m so happy for him. The other is Ken Tomczuk. Ken is now in his mid-30s and has been with the Majors for over 10 years. He is our senior leader, is one of the fittest guys on the team, and is a great example for the younger players. This is now his third time winning this trophy, more than anyone else in club history. 

     The biggest shout out has to go to Werner Fricker III. He does it all. He leads this team, he’s President of the United Soccer League of PA, he’s the second Vorplattler of the dance group, and he’s a member of our club’s Board of Governors committed to leadership within the club. He is always working behind the scenes to make sure our players have the best environment and set up possible. It is the most thankless job of all but no one would ever know it since he throws all of his effort into it. Bottom line, without him we definitely aren’t going on this trip and we might not have a team at all. He has to get a large portion of the credit for this achievement.

     I could not be more proud of our team for the win and our supporters for making the trip and helping us get this trophy. Make no mistake, they played a big part. It’s been a challenging year on and off the field for everyone. I’ve had some personal highlights in the last year which made coaching this team and volunteering my time even more difficult. Its moments and memories like this which is why I continue to do it.  Guys like Bobby Wilkinson, Mike Curley, and many others donated their time so that I could have these experiences as a player and I do it now so that the next generation has what I had. Can’t wait to defend our title next year in Cleveland!

Jason Karasow

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