By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Sports
After scoring season-opening 3-0 win, the semi-pro LA Blue Goose Soccer Club is home again next Saturday, May 21, against Texas United at Mayo Field on the Centenary College campus.
Blue Goose won its debut game at home Wednesday night over the Little Rock Rangers. Goals were scored by Juri Schlingmann, Adam Morris and Guilherme Bittencourt, with assists from Gerardo Martinez and Nicolas Theberge.
The game day rosters in this league are limited to 18 players, with the professional substitution rule – when a player is substituted out of the game, he cannot return.
It was a hot and humid evening, with no breeze to speak of for any type of relief. It was even more sticky in the stands as the 300-plus fans cheered on their newest hometown team. The heat was a factor for both teams, along with a short run-up to the opener for Blue Goose.
“Since so many of our players attend college, we were only able to have three days to prepare for this first game. Our fitness was the area in which we suffered the most,” assistant coach Rafa Muniz said. “But we had a solid game plan and the players were able to gel quickly. (It was) a solid win against one of the better teams in our division.”
Both teams began a little reserved, as they were getting themselves used to the conditions and the atmosphere. The Rangers took a direct approach looking to play the long ball to their fast forward. The Blue Goose defense was more than up for the early challenges.
In the 15th minute, Blue Goose defender Martinez took a throw-in deep in the Rangers’ defensive third to the feet of Schlingmann, who turned and fired the ball into the back of the net, putting Blue Goose up 1-0.
The Rangers’ biggest threat came when their right wing sent a ball toward goal. Blue Goose keeper Brett Ekperuoh struggled with the setting sun as the ball hit the far post. Ekperuoh was able to collect the loose ball just before a Ranger was poised to tap it in the goal.
Blue Goose controlled the ball the majority of the final 20 minutes of the half. They were able to double their lead in the 28th minute, when Martin Weinitschke took a free kick from 40 yards out that deflected off a Rangers defender to the feet of Morris, who calmly slotted the ball in the net past the outstretched arms of the keeper.
The game got chippy after halftime, with foul after foul being called by the center referee, including eight yellow cards issued.
The play was fast, with Blue Goose dominating possession and opportunities throughout the half. In the 83rd minute, Theberge centered a pass to the feet of Bittencourt, who hit a no doubter to finish the score line at 3-0. Little Rock pressed hard for the final 10 minutes, including five minutes of added time. Keeper Ekperuoh came up big late with a couple solid saves and a punch out on a cross that went 30 yards downfield. He finished the game with eight saves.
“We played at a very high level, but we have plenty of room to get better,” said Theberge, a Quebec native, who currently plays for MidAmerican Nazarene College in Kansas. “As we play longer together, the better we will be. It was great to start off the season with a win.”
Theberge was clearly the crowd favorite, with repeated cheers for his never-ending effort as he played the full 90 minutes.
Byrd High School standout Brennen Nguyen, at 16 the team’s youngest player, subbed in with 25 minutes left. He held his own with the much older and more seasoned players on the field.
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