The Croatian Eagles haven't yet scored in Great Lakes Premier League play, having been shut out in each of their first three matches in the new league.
But manager Alex Toth feels good about his team, which is taking this weekend off from GLPL action to participate in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region II Championships in Overland Park, Kan.
"I do feel good going into regionals," said Toth, whose team is one of three sides in the regional Werner Fricker Open Cup competition along with fellow GLPL side RWB Adria and the KC Athletics. "Some of the things that we weren't doing really well – possessing the ball, fighting for balls, fighting for second balls, all those little things that we normally do really well – we're doing well now, so I'm feeling pretty good."
The Eagles, who are 0-1-2 in the GLPL and leading the Wisconsin Soccer Leagues Major Division with a 12-0-4 mark, got past Milwaukee Sport Club 2-1 on Nov. 1 to win the Wisconsin Werner Fricker Open Cup and earn a regional berth.
The Croatians will play RWB Adria at 4 p.m. Friday and KC Athletics at 8 a.m. Saturday; the top two teams after the round-robin games will meet again at 8 a.m. Sunday for the title – the regional champion advances to the USASA National Cup from July 16 to 19 in Virginia Beach, Va.
Willan calling time on playing career?
While Toth has a deep squad to select from this weekend, one player not in the mix is midfielder Jason Willan (Franklin).
The 43-year-old former pro hasn't played for the Eagles since last summer, and Toth isn't expecting him to rejoin them anytime soon. Toth said Willan has to travel more for his job than in the past, which reduces the amount of training he can do.
"He comes out once in a while to train and I keep trying to coax him to come back," Toth said. "He's just not comfortable with the amount of training that he's doing to walk on the field with us, with any team, actually, at this point.
"It's not that he can't do it – he can still do it – but he's the kind of guy, if he can't do it at the level he wants to do it, he's not going to play. That's just the way he is. I love him, all the guys miss him, I miss him. I'd take him back in a second, even at 75 percent. But he's a great professional player, one of the greatest players, I think, in the state, and if he can't play up to his standards, he's not going to play."
Willan played seven seasons of pro outdoor soccer with the Milwaukee Rampage and Minnesota Thunder and six seasons indoors with the Detroit Rockers and Milwaukee Wave. He's played with the Croatians since 1999, and helped lead the club to the USASA Open Cup national championship in 2012.
Bavarian SC, which is 8-4-5 and in fourth place in the WSL Majors, claimed a regional berth by virtue of being the lone team to enter the Wisconsin Amateur Cup.
The Bavarians open Group B play at 7 p.m. Friday against AFC Ann Arbor and have two matches Saturday, taking on Kansas side Chilitos Auto at 10 a.m. and RWB Adria at 4 p.m. AFC Ann Arbor and RWB Adria will be among their GLPL rivals next season – the Bavarians were the new league's first expansion team for 2016.
The group winner advances to the regional final at 8 a.m. Sunday.