Usually when Alex Toth schedules a midweek friendly for the Croatian Eagles, he treats the match in that very manner – trying out different lineups, taking a look at new players at different positions, knowing the result isn't of great importance.
That wasn't the case Wednesday night.
"It really wasn't a friendly, we wanted to win," Toth said after his team beat the Madison 56ers 2-0 on a cool spring evening at Breese Stevens Field in Madison.
The Eagles' mentality stemmed from their Great Lakes Premier League opener on May 10 – a 4-0 loss to to rival Croatian club RWB Adria in Chicago – and their recent form in Wisconsin Soccer Leagues Major Division play.
"We want to win every game now," said Toth, whose team was preparing to play host to Michigan's AFC Ann Arbor in its GLPL home opener Saturday at Croatian Park in Franklin. "After that 4-0 loss, we have to start playing Croatian Eagles soccer again, and I thought we did a better job tonight.
"(I'm) pleased, because we haven't been jelling – even though we've been winning games in the (Majors), we've been playing subpar. It was nice to connect some things ... It's a huge game on Saturday, so I wanted to get that winning feeling back."
Defender Dusty Page (Germantown/Kettle Moraine Lutheran) opened the scoring with a header after a corner kick in the 30th minute for the blue-clad visitors, who also had the Marquette attacking duo of David Selvaggi and Kelmend Islami (South Milwaukee) on the field for the first time.
"Dusty Page, he's huge for us," Toth said of Page, who closed out his college career at Northern Illinois last fall. "I wanted to see how Selvaggi and Islami would fit in and they fit in really nice, and I was really looking for the chemistry in the midfield between (Scott) Raymonds, (Andrew) Wiedabach and Tony Patterson, because it hasn't been jelling and tonight was better."
While Toth had a serious agenda, he also brought Under-17 players Alec Sykes and Kevin Mesich for the match. Sykes set up an insurance goal in the 83rd, playing a ball from the right flank over to Ilya Ksenidi (West Allis Hale/UW-Green Bay). The one-time 56ers player was alone on the left side of the box and had loads of time to pick out his shot and beat UW-Platteville keeper Scott Sibik (Onalaska).
On the other side, 56ers coach Jim Launder used the friendly to evaluate players who either recently joined the team or didn't see action in the 2-2 draw against the Minnesota Twin Stars in a National Premier Soccer League opener Saturday.
"I really just wanted to see some of these other guys, get them in and give them a chance," said Launder, who singled out the play of Western Illinois forward Drew Whalen and University of Wisconsin center back Zacc Roelke (Madison East) among the 26 players who saw action. "I feel bad for the players, kind of, because I didn't set it up to win."
May 20, 2015 Friendly at Breese Stevens Field, Madison
Croatian Eagles – Dusty Page 30
Croatian Eagles – Ilya Ksenidi (Alec Sykes) 83
MADISON 56ERS: Joe White; Miguel Izquierdo, Felipe Mattar, Zacc Roelke, Driton Zyteja; Taylor Pill, Julius Goedhart, Carlos Rodriguez; Gideon Asante, Drew Whalen, Sam Novak. Substitutes: Scott Sibik, Josh Thiermann, Jacob Scotte-Hatherly, Tim Rogers, Brandon Reyes, Jose Oirdobro, Keenan Newallo, Sam Della Monica, Jack Hagstrom, Ryan Shogren, Callum Glen, Felipe Lillo, David Martinez, Wira Wama, Tony Amolo.
CROATIAN EAGLES: Josh Rohde; Dusty Page, Aaron Cranfill, Aaron Schroeder, Tony Patterson; Scott Raymonds, A.J. Patterson, Andrew Wiedabach, Edison Crespo, Andy Huftalin, Kelmend Islami. Substitutes: Nick Grbavac, Ilya Ksenidi, Mike Narciso, Greg Jones, David Selvaggi, Alec Sykes, Sean Tabbert, Kevin Mesich.