Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Milwaukee Pride

Laurie Bell, a junior on the 2013 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his second entry of the year.


It is rivalry week for men's soccer in Milwaukee. This Friday we take on Marquette at our home field. The 'Milwaukee Cup' and bragging rights in the city are at stake. A year ago at their place, the Golden Eagles turned our 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat, scoring the winning goal as the end of game buzzer sounded. In spring, another last-gasp set piece gave them a victory of the same scoreline. The two games have played on my mind and my teammates' ever since and a chance to exact revenge has been a long time coming. This Friday we will attempt to do just that.

Our preseason preparations for the home opener have been good, finishing with two convincing wins over Lewis and Parkside at Engelmann. The aggregate scoreline of 7-1 over the two games has furthered the confidence we built last year whenever we play on our own turf. As it was for six of the seven games a season ago, we want to make Engelmann our fortress. Against Lewis, all three former Green Bay players - Stone, Goodnetter, Cranfill - now eligible after sitting last fall, scored their first goals for Milwaukee. Not bad for two defenders and a central midfielder! Two goals came from set pieces, an area we hope to be strong in this year with several tall, powerful players who can compete in the air. And if that results in more assists for myself as a corner and free kick taker, I won't complain. The final of our four goals was a crushing drive from Robbie Boyd from outside the penalty area. If he can find consistent scoring form this season it will be a huge asset for our team.

Against Parkside, it took conceding the opening goal to get us to raise our game. Once we did though, we looked strong. Kyle Neumann came on early as a substitute forward - a position he hasn't played for a while - and made a big impact. He scored a nice goal and held the ball up well all night. The other two goals were scored by me. One was a nice early touch-and-finish goal that I was proud of. The other, I will admit, was a bit of a fluke. A forty yard free kick into the top corner sounds spectacular until you are told it was meant as a cross. They all count.

Off the field we have been eating well. We've been supplied with breakfasts, lunches and dinners from Alterra, Via and other local eateries. With the end of preseason this will be stopping though and we'll be back fending for ourselves in our own kitchens - something I'm fearing for with Zach Stevenson as a roommate. Last year our home cooking resulted in the "Great Chicken Nugget Fire of Farwell Avenue", so we're keeping fingers crossed for better success this year.

This week a mention must go out to Jamie Bladen. One of our standout players as a senior last fall, he is now a member of the coaching staff. And since I blogged about the coaches last week without dropping his name, he hasn't been shy in letting me know how offended he was. So, to Jamie: a fine player, a teammate who I looked up to and made me feel welcome when I first arrived, and now a reassuring locker room presence for the current crop of Panthers. It's great to still have you around.

I will sign off with a plea to all Panther fans and soccer enthusiasts in the city to attend Friday's monumental match-up and cheer us on. See you there.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Exciting Times for Panthers

Laurie Bell, a junior on the 2013 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website. Today is his first entry of the year.


Over two thousand fans watched a world record get broken as the Panthers played their first exhibition game of this preseason. OK, the world record had nothing to do with soccer, but our fixture was the main feature of SIU Edwardsville’s 2013 welcome event, an exciting occasion to be a part of. New squad members got playing time and, with only two days of full training behind us, the 2-0 loss on the road was hardly demoralizing.

At half time, 1,700 spectators simultaneously opened cans of soda, becoming the largest gathering ever to do so. But, the way the game started, it was as though our opposition had guzzled the gallons of Pepsi before walking out of the tunnel. The match began frantically, with SIUE passing and pressing to the frenetic beat of whatever dance song came blaring from the speakers in the field-side parking lot. The soundtrack unfortunately lasted 90 minutes, but the home side’s dominance didn’t. We managed to get back into the game, link up better as a team and create some chances. We didn’t take any of ours though and our opponents converted two of their few opportunities, ultimately proving the difference between the sides.

We went into the game missing several players through injury. Most are short term, post-summer knocks but, unfortunately, Zach Stevenson’s torn ankle ligaments mean he’ll be crutching around campus and out of soccer action for at least six weeks. We all wish him well with his recovery. Barring Zach’s misfortune though, everything has been positive since meeting back up as a group in Milwaukee.

Before linking up with the coaches, we held five days of 'Captain’s Practice', training together, meeting the new guys and all becoming familiar with one another. This means incoming freshmen staying in team mates’ houses before they can move into the dorms. Dustin, Zach and I hosted the New Mexican pair Junior (Isaias) and Agustin, a transfer. A highlight was taking Agustin out on my new paddle board on Lake Michigan. Judging by his wobbly attempts, I don’t think water sports are all that common in New Mexico. Junior remained safely on dry land, laughing.

Those two, as well as the rest of the new guys, all look strong on the field. Kostas, Beau and Rami will all contribute to our attack, Junior to defense and Liam Anderson will fight it out with Agustin and John Stahr for the number one goalkeeping position. Adding that bunch to the wealth of returning talent from our successful last fall gives us a very strong squad for this coming year. Finally, the three guys who had to sit last fall – Luke Goodnetter, Andrew Stone and Aaron Cranfill – all pulled on Milwaukee jerseys for the first time Friday night, each looking confident on their long overdue Panther debuts and ready to play big roles this coming season.

Another welcome point this preseason has been returning to familiar faces on the staff in coaches Keldermann and Zenoni. It’s the first season I have come into knowing the coaches I’ll be working with. Former volunteer goalkeeper coach Mark Litton has joined full time which is a further plus point for the program.

So the coaches are there, the players are ready and, as I sit writing from the bleachers looking out over our sun-drenched field, our facilities look as glorious as ever. It’s fair to say I am very excited for this fall.