AFC Cleveland earned second place honors in the Hank Steinbrecher Cup following their 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Michigan Bucks.
“It was tough for the first half, going down with an own goal kind of deflated us,” AFC Cleveland Head Coach Mike Sesar said after the match. “Second half we pushed three in the back really went at them and created high scoring chances, but can’t believe one didn’t go in…can’t fault the guys (because) they really played hard in the second half.”
As Sesar mentioned, Michigan got on the board in the tenth minute thanks to an AFC Cleveland miscue and a fortuitous bounce. On a high-lofted ball, AFC Cleveland’s Declan McGivern went up for the ball at the top of the box, collided with goalkeeper Alex Ivanov and the ball deflected off the centre back and the two had to look on as the ball slowly rolled into the back of the net. It was 1-0 Michigan early.
From there the Bucks would dominate possession for much of the opening half, but the Royals defense held firm, limiting Michigan to shots from distance that either missed the goal frame or were easily handled by Ivanov.
Michigan would take advantage of their constant attack, drawing a foul in the AFC Cleveland box. Bucks captain Tom Owens stepped up to the spot and calmly buried the shot in the bottom right corner as Ivanov dived towards the right of goal. It was 2-0 Bucks in the 37th minute.
At the half, Cesar subbed in Coletun Long and the change appeared to settle down the Royals, who could clear away more Bucks chances and go on to create chances of their own. AFC Cleveland’s Ian Larson created their first great chance of the match in the 52nd minute when he took a shot from a tough angle on the left side of the box, but his shot went wide of post and Chris Cvecko couldn’t quite finish his far-post run in time to get on the end of it.
Following a pair of saves from Ivanov, Admir Suljevic had the chance of the match for the Royals. Substitute Yianni Sarris found space off the counter attack and sent a clever through ball in for the captain Suljevic, but the Cleveland State alum’s shot sailed over the crossbar.
Sarris would also be involved in a great opportunity for AFC Cleveland in the 71st minute, this time he was on the receiving end of good service, but the midfielders shot went wide.
The Bucks then found their third goal, and again it went off the foot of an AFC Cleveland defender, this time Coletun long slid in to attempt to clear a cross which would likely have resulted in an easy finish for the Bucks regardless, but Long’s clearance rolled past Ivanov and into the net. In the 74th minute, the Bucks lead 3-0.
That score line would hold until the final whistle despite a couple of chances for AFC Cleveland, the best of which coming from Tom Beck, and the Royals completed the Hank Steinbrecher Cup with a second-place finish.
Final standings of the 2017 Hank Steinbrecher Cup were as follows: Christos FC (fourth place), Chicago FC United (third place), AFC Cleveland (second place), and Michigan Bucks (first place).