It’s difficult recapping our season because we did some really good things, had some disappointing moments, didn’t quite achieve the goals we laid out coming into the season, but had a strong spring which hopefully with be a good foundation for the fall.
So, after writing and reading that I guess you could say we had an up and down season with mixed results.
We came into the start of the season feeling really confident coming off the win at the National Donauschwaben Tournament in Akron. All of that momentum was halted with a really poor pre-season (at no fault of the players). A combination of bad weather, field availability, and lack of opponents saw us coming into league play with maybe only 1 friendly match played when we normally play 5+.
Starting the United League season at the Erzgebirge for their Sportsfest is always a tough way to start the season. I’ve felt that it’s a good indicator of the strength of our team to see how we handle that difficult challenge right from the beginning. Unfortunately, our lack of a pre-season really hurt us, and we somewhat struggled to get into that game losing 2:0.
We bounced back with a win away at Phoenix and then matched up against VE in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. By this time, we were practicing twice a week and felt much more prepared. The game started fairly even, with VE catching a break and scoring to go up 1:0. They scored not too long after to make it 2:0. We absolutely dominated the second half and got one back to make it 2:1 but could not find the second goal. If we score once more and get the game to overtime, I have no doubt we would go on to win that game.
Then we went on a stretch of league play with up and down results. Tie at Lighthouse, lose to West Chester, beat Lancaster handily, lose to Colonial, and beat Inter-Vidas, and then Danubia handily. During this stretch we started picking up injuries also. For a while there, it felt like every game two or three guys were getting hurt and would be missing significant time. Although it’s not an excuse, it’s very difficult to build momentum while that’s happening.
We started the Amateur Cup with a win over Vidas and then lost away to West Chester in the quarterfinal. A few nights later in league play we tied 3:3 against the Ukrainians, a team we should never tie, and it felt more like a loss. This would wrap up the fall portion of the league season and we were mid-table. Erzgebirge was top of the league without dropping a point, and West Chester already had two loses so it looked like the league was VE’s to lose.
EPSA decided to start and try to complete the Open Cup but fortunately we had a break for several weeks. This allowed our injured players to get healthy, and it also gave us the opportunity to sign college players who were done their seasons. We made two signings with guys that had completed their eligibility and a few others from our U-23 pool. We opened up against Kensington SC down at Temple University and came away with a resounding win.
Due to low registration in the cup, the next game would be the semi-final against Colonial. Colonial had beaten us on a poor field earlier in league season, but we were confident that we had the better team. We played them on a very nice turf field at the Proving Grounds. Overcoming a slow start where Colonial didn’t capitalize on their chances, we put in a strong performance to win 3:0.
The final was to be played against West Chester. The night before the final was the Club’s Annual Christmas Party and many members decided to come out and brave the conditions to support the team on Sunday.
West Chester is one of the top amateur teams in the region and the country and we have not had much success against them over the past couple years. They are very good on the ball and know how to win big games. Most teams sit back, let them dictate play, and try to catch them on the counter. That hadn’t worked for us in the past, so we decided to be aggressive and press them. For the first 15 to 20 minutes it worked, to a point. They were struggling to keep the ball; we were creating chances but could not capitalize. West Chester soaked up the pressure and eventually turned it around. They scored around the 30th minute and really applied the pressure. We struggled to get out of the half and West Chester made it 2:0 before the break. Given our history against them and their talent it would have been easy to come into halftime with our heads down, but the guys weren’t having any of that. Our team came out with the same intensity that we started the game with. We were the better of the two sides for the remaining 45 minutes. But as good teams do, West Chester would bend but not break. We threw everything at them but couldn’t find the first goal. Eventually, West Chester would get their third in the last minute of play to make it 3:0 a somewhat deceiving score line.
My message to the team after was although the result was disappointing, we were getting stronger as the teams around us were moving in the opposite direction. I wish we could have kept playing, but the league and games were done so we went on an official break during the winter. Some guys played indoor, a trip up to Riedlbauer’s and mostly guys took the time to get ready for the spring portion of the season.
The spring portion of the season can always be difficult when you’re no longer competing in cups and don’t have a realistic chance of winning the league. For a coach, it is a great time to evaluate the group from a few angles and use that to prepare for the next season in the fall. We set a goal to finish top three in the league. We knew it would take a good run of form along with some help from our opponents. I don’t know our official records over the last 10 to 20 years, but I did take part in most of those seasons. This might have been our best spring season over that time frame. We finished with six wins, one tie, and one loss in the spring. We beat Vidas, the Ukrainians, Colonial, Lancaster, Lighthouse, and Phoenix. We tied VE (their only dropped points of the season with 1 game still to be played) and lost a tough one against West Chester. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the help we needed and missed out on third place by one point finishing fourth.
Overall, I really like where our team is at, but like all teams, we have room for improvement. Until we can beat West Chester or the Erzgebirge we can’t consider the German Hungarians a top two team.
We are however, right there knocking on the door.
The core of our team is 25 to 26 years old and have been with us since their U-23 days. It does take 1 to 2 years for college players to figure out our league and that group has largely done that. Most of that group played in their first cup final this year and that experience will pay dividends down the road. We have a few veteran guys still making big contributions, and we’ve also made important younger pick-ups along the way. If our players continue to do the right things the success on the field will come. I am very confident of that.
Off the field, I think we do it better than everybody else. We knew the post-game activities without having a clubhouse would be challenging. We’ve met that challenge many times over!
We always bring a big group into opposing clubhouses. For “home” games, we find a local bar, somebody’s house, and the sidelines or the parking lots work just as well. We had a large group go on the ski trip up to Riedlbauer’s and just had a group out to dinner in the city. It’s important to me that we continue to find players that want to build relationships off the field because I believe it helps the results on the field and also makes the overall experience better for everyone.
From my playing days, I definitely have memories of the big wins, and the tough losses, but I remember the nights out with the guys even more. That’s what made U.G.H. great for me as a player and that’s what I continue to try and build for our group. I’ve been able to watch our core guys grow from 20-year old’s to adults that are now getting married, buying houses, etc. etc.
I can’t wait to have a first-row seat over the next couple years to see what these guys can accomplish on and off the field.