The Croatian Eagles performed well in nearly every category in their Great Lakes Premier League home opener against AFC Ann Arbor. But the one area in which they struggled meant they are still looking for their first goal in league play.
Goalkeeper T.J. Tomasso, who spent two seasons with the New England Revolution, stopped all nine shots he faced as Ann Arbor stymied the Croatians in a 0-0 draw Saturday afternoon at Croatian Park in Franklin.
"Defensively, we were good. Goalkeeping was good. Midfield was good. We created opportunities, which was good. The only part that we didn't do was finish," Eagles manager Alex Toth said. "For the most part, the rest of the game was great.
"We had really quality goal-scoring opporunities and we didn't score. That would be the frustrating part. We'll take the point and we'll go from there."
Josh Rohde (Waukesha West/UW-Whitewater) made two saves to preserve the clean sheet for the Croatians, one coming on Matthew Edicha's free kick in the 91st minute, but the Eagles (0-1-1 GLPL) couldn't find a way past Tomasso.
Toth lauded the work done by his midfield trio of Scott Raymonds (Brookfield East/UW-Green Bay), Philip Suprise (Milwaukee Pius) and Andrew Wiedabach (Mequon Homestead/UW-Milwaukee) on both sides of the ball.
"I thought they did a good job creating chances, and then they also did a good job defensively shutting down anything that was trying to come through the middle," Toth said. "Typically, you wouldn't consider any of them defensive mids, but those three guys made it work. So I was happy and pleased with the way they played."
Raymonds had one of the Croatians' better scoring opportunities, clipping the top of the crossbar on a shot in the first half.
"We got in behind them twice in the first half, 1v1 against the keeper, and once in the second half," Toth said. "And we had a couple of other chances."
Ann Arbor (1-0-1 GLPL) had its best chance in the 15th minute, Toth said, forcing a turnover by the Eagles at the top of the box, but Ahinga Selemani's resulting shot went wide.
Both teams finished the match with 10 men.
Croatians defender Aaron Cranfill (New Berlin West/UW-Milwaukee) drew his second yellow card of the day in the 85th for offensive language – the Eagles had defender Aaron Schroeder (Milwaukee Pius) sent off in their 4-0 loss to RWB Adria for the same offense in their GLPL opener May 10; he was suspended for Saturday's match. Two minutes later, Ann Arbor's Amadou Cissé saw red for stomping on Eagles defender Dusty Page (Germantown/Kettle Moraine Lutheran) when he was on the ground, Toth said.
The Croatians have two Wisconsin Soccer Leagues Major Division matches before their next GLPL game June 5 at Grand Rapids FC, May 31 at Milwaukee Sport Club and June 2 against the Milwaukee Kickers.
"The focus is going to be score goals," Toth said of those games, "and obviously keeping the other parts of the game intact."
Then the Eagles will head to the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region II Championships, which are June 12 to 14 in Overland Park, Kan., before their final five matches of the GLPL season – a stretch that starts with a June 19 home game against Oakland United.
"Hopefully, we're clicking by then," Toth said.
May 23, 2015 Great Lakes Premier League match
At Croatian Park, Franklin
CROATIAN EAGLES: Josh Rohde; Connor Behnke, Dusty Page, Aaron Cranfill, Mike Narciso; Scott Raymonds (Tom Lynn 60), Philip Suprise (Ilya Ksenidi 68), Andrew Wiedabach; David Selvaggi (Kelmend Islami 62), Andy Huftalin, Edison Crespo.
Shots: CE 15, AA 5. Fouls: CE 14, AA 12. Corner kicks: CE 1, AA 8. Saves: CE 2, AA 9. Offsides: CE 5, AA 1. Discipline: CE – Cranfill (yellow) 29, Raymonds (yellow) 36, Selvaggi (yellow) 59, Wiedabach (yellow) 65, Cranfill (second yellow/red) 85; AA – Jay McIntosh (yellow) 79, Amadou Cissé (red) 87.