Two weeks ago, Alex Toth was somewhat frustrated by the Croatians Eagles' scoreless draw against AFC Ann Arbor in a Great Lakes Premier League match. On Friday night, the manager was pretty pleased with the same result.
Nick Barry (UW-Oshkosh) made seven saves as a makeshift Croatians lineup claimed a hard-earned point with a 0-0 match against Grand Rapids FC in a match watched by 3,843 fans at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Ann Arbor, they're a good squad. But Grand Rapids, they were really impressive," Toth said. "And then they had 3,800 fans there. It was crazy. I was missing some key guys ... I put together what I thought was a decent squad, a good squad, but to come out 0-0 and the way that our guys battled, I'm pleased."
The Eagles (0-1-2 GLPL) were without at least eight players who have been starters this spring, but got a great performance from Barry to keep the clean sheet in place of regular starter Josh Rohde (Waukesha West/UW-Whitewater) – he wasn't available because he was taking a U.S. Soccer Federation D license coaching course.
"He was probably the Man of the Match," Toth said of Barry, a native of Wheaton, Ill., who closed out his college career last fall. "He made some really big-time saves. He's been coming out to training with us ... He's been wanting to play, so we gave him the opportunity and he stepped up, big time. Quality game from him."
Three of Barry's saves came in a 4-minute span in the second half, first in the 59th and then back-to-back stops after a corner kick in the 62nd.
The Croatians, still seeking their first goal in GLPL play, had two prime chances to get on the board against Grand Rapids (1-1-1 GLPL).
Midfielder Andrew Wiedabach (Mequon Homestead/UW-Milwaukee) just missed the corner of the goal on a low, driven shot from about 30 yards out in the 67th. "The ball was a foot off the ground," Toth said. "Ripped it, a missile, just inches wide."
Then in the final minutes, striker Edison Crespo (Milwaukee Hamilton/UW-Milwaukee) beat a defender on the left side, got to the end line and crossed the ball back to the middle. Marquette's Kelmend Islami (South Milwaukee) fired on target, but Grand Rapids keeper Chase Rau – a former University of Wisconsin athlete – reacted quickly and made the save to keep it scoreless.
Toth praised the efforts of Wiedabach and Crespo in particular, along with the Grand Army supporters group and the crowd at Houseman Field.
"It was a great atmosphere," he said. "It kind of spoils you – you get that taste. Those are the kinds of games I want to coach, those are the kinds of games players want to play in."
The Eagles head to Overland Park, Kan., next weekend for the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region II Championships before resuming GLPL play June 19 against Oakland United (1-2-1 GLPL) at home in Franklin.
June 5, 2015 Great Lakes Premier League match
At Houseman Field, Grand Rapids, Mich. Att. – 3,843.
GRAND RAPIDS FC: Chase Rau; Ryan Scott, Tony Deakin, Tyler Fischer (Aldony Mendez 85), Mark Barone (A.J. Dufenbdach 81), Kyle Havertake, Domenic Barone, Nobel Sullivan, Joe Sweet (Elmedin Zukic 46), Nick Abdoo (Lito Esquivel 69), Ben Darling.
CROATIAN EAGLES: Nick Barry; Mike Narciso, Connor Behnke, Chris Kurth, Tony Patterson; Joe Anderson, Andrew Wiedabach, Edison Crespo; Andy Huftalin, Kelmend Islami, Connor Brehm (Sean Tabbert 77).
Shots: GR 15, CE 8. Saves: GR 3, CE 7. Corners: GR 7, CE 1. Fouls: GR 10, CE 12. Offsides: GR 4, CE 2. Discipline: GR – Barone (yellow) 76; CE – Narciso (yellow) 22; Tabbert (yellow) 90.