USASA National Amateur Cup: FC Milwaukee Torrent Defeats Vlora FC 1-0 to Advance in Region II

Torrent to face Bavarian United SC in Region II Final

By Dominic José Bisogno/NPSL.com

FC Milwaukee Torrent hit the road on June 16, battling Minnesota’s Vlora FC to a 1-0 victory at Burnsville High School in the Region II USASA National Amateur Cup semifinals.

The Torrent arrived at the regional semifinals through a 6-1 win over Chicago House AC which featured two goals from Angel Gongora alongside a goal each from Sam Abreu, Gabe Voung, Zakaria Daaou, and Paco Piscaglia. Starting the year with a competitive start to Gateway Conference play, the long-time NPSL members held a 2-2-2 league record as of June 16.

The evening kicked off at a sunny 87 degrees Fahrenheit, but neither team let the weather slow down play.  Both the Milwaukee Torrent and Vlora had chances in the first half, Milwaukee’s in large part due to strong play down the wings by Brandon Kaup, Davis Nelson, and Alejandro Martínez, but momentary errors in execution and good goalkeeping meant that it remained 0-0 heading into halftime.  An offside goal from Paco Piscaglia was the closest Torrent chance.  The visitors held the majority of the ball for the final 15 minutes, though Vlora had two big breakaway chances just before halftime to keep things interesting, requiring strong defending by Jai Hsieh-Bailey.

Milwaukee Torrent Head Coach Jeff Pill noted after the game that the team’s depth is a serious weapon, a clear factor even in the first half as they faced a quick turnaround to best Vlora on June 16.

“I think one of the hardest parts of my job is picking who plays for this team, because it’s a pretty deep squad,” Pill said. “We can also improvise because we have guys that play multiple positions through the whole season.…We finished the [June 15] game at 9:00 pm last night and were on the bus for today at 9:00 am, so I think that shows a lot of character.”

With the temperature high and a dense schedule on hand, both sides began making changes early on in the semifinal, both making one change in the first half and the Torrent making a second immediately at halftime to bring on substitute forward Juan Lopez, a fortuitous change.

The hosts started the half well, surviving early half chances for Milwaukee before nearly scoring the opener with a shot that skimmed the bar.  Doing some surviving of their own, Milwaukee eventually rediscovered their rhythm and began to control the majority of the possession.  The clock ticked on, heading into the 80th minute without a goal, but the Torrent seemed most likely to find a moment to change the game.

The deciding moment came in the 81st minute.  Zakaria Daaou made a run down the right wing with the ball tight to his foot, reaching the end line with just enough time and space to let loose with a low cross into the box.  The ball found Lopez who reacted with a quick flicked finish to sneak a shot past the crowd and give Milwaukee a vital lead late on Sunday.

Lopez nearly had another a few minutes later, but his first was enough to win the game with help from a gritty defensive and midfield performance by the Torrent.  Goalkeeper Sam Ortner also played a starring role, serving as Mr. Reliable throughout the chaotic clean sheet victory.

Pill felt that the Torrent did not show their best on Sunday, but was very pleased with how the squad came together to figure out a difficult challenge.

“It wasn’t our best game and I think we made it hard for ourselves, sometimes over complicating things, but good for our guys sticking together,” Pill added. “[Lopez] came in and made a difference.  He of course got the goal and probably should have had two.  Everyone came in and did their part.”

The win means the Torrent will face Bavarian United SC in the Region II Final, a matchup with endless local context for both teams to feed on.  Pill noted that the team is excited to have a chance at the regional title, as well as a chance to battle it out with their historic neighbors.

“I think there’ll be a lot of excitement back in Milwaukee,” Pill concluded. “We have a lot of respect for Bavarians. … I’m excited for the occasion but of course we still have a lot of work to do.”

Photo Credit: Dominic José Bisogno/NPSL.com

 

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