You could not see the stars through the clouds as the thunderstorm roared through Evanston. You could not see the stars because they’d all descended onto the hard turf of the Lakeside Fields to play for NUTC FC, of course. After weeks of frustration, self-doubt and insipid soccer, NUTC FC, the Runners With No Chill, defeated a short-handed Confused Sadboys side 4-1 after three first-half goals.
For a team under pressure to succeed after consecutive 2-0 defeats, NUTC FC played with no fear. Two weeks ago, the team played a solid second half against Beta with nine players after moving Joe back to midfield. With Liz, the team’s starting goalkeeper from its 2-0 win over Athletico Garnett United FC, back in goal, and a host of tactical changes from embattled head coach/player Cool Mike Ryzhov, the team embraced a new identity of actually passing and creating chances going forward. It worked to perfection.
However, the game was delayed by 10 minutes due to lightning, leaving both teams inside SPAC. When the contest started, rain was still pouring onto the turf. In a reversal of last week, the Confused Sadboys were the team missing two players. The short-handed team struggled defensively, conceding a goal to Tristan Jung (yes, the author of this) in the opening five minutes.
After blatantly ignoring his coach’s orders and playing as a right winger for most of the game, and thusly not touching the ball once in the first seven minutes, Nicky Hug generously passed Jung the ball just inside the penalty area. Despite not doing anything, Jung decided to shoot for goal in his first action of the game. The low shot didn’t have much power, but the goalkeeper fell victim to the slippery conditions. The ball slipped under his hands and spun into the goal. 1-0 to NUTC FC. Nick Hug gave Tristan a hug.
After scoring their first goal in 80 minutes, NUTC FC was off to the races. The team dominated possession with its extra players and controlled the pace well. Before long, Ryzhov and Hug created another chance for Jung, who completely overran the ball and barely flicked the pass forward. However, the two Confused Sadboys defending the goal somehow tapped the ball past their own goalie, making it 2-0 for NUTC FC.
The Runners were suddenly rampant. They started peppering the goal with shots, using their dominance in possession wisely. With halftime drawing to a close, Clay Kauzlaric bombed a long ball over the top for David “The Sledgehammer” Donnelly. He used his traditional tactic of charging at the goalkeeper and making him fumble the ball. He then scored an easy goal to make it 3-0 just before halftime. Liz also made a few solid saves in goal to close out a dream half for the Runners.
The second half got off to an similar start. Joe Draut capitalized on another defensive mistake and stole the ball after a Confused Sadboy tripped on the wet turf. With no defenders back, Joe slammed the ball into the net to make it 4-0 to NUTC FC. With the Confused Sadboys only running out nine players, it was hard to tell how much better NUTC FC actually was, but the scoreline told no lies.
For once, there was no drama for NUTC FC. There were no insane Arpan lunges at the ball with an empty net, no red cards on the sidelines for cursing at the referee, no effing broken arms, no dramatic, last-second heroics. NUTC coasted with a 4-0 lead, allowing Masson and Kauzlaric, the hardworking defensive spine of the team, to play up front and Liz to leave goal for some outfield play. Unfortunately, the team conceded a rather deserved consolation goal to the Confused Sadboys’ best player, who repeatedly breezed past the defense and finally beat Liz to make it 4-1 with eight minutes or so remaining.
But when the final whistle sounded, NUTC FC celebrated an emphatic 4-1 victory that would prove critical in the playoff race. After their relatively unconvincing opening victory and two losses, the team had dropped to 16th in the standings, in danger of missing the 16-team playoffs entirely. The first half put away any doubts. NUTC FC, in its first year of existence, will be playing in the NUIM White League Playoffs, and are likely brimming with confidence.
“You know, I think after a tactical master class, we can finally stop with the #MIKEOUT campaign,” manager Cool Mike said after the match.
We will stop criticizing the manager for one week before NUTC FC learns who it will be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Supposedly, we’ll have a real turf field! That sounds exciting!
Notes and Jokes
- We’re actually not terrible at soccer.
- Here’s a completely subjective FIFA Ratings list for everyone on the roster, on an NUIM scale. This is entirely intended to offend people, my apologies:
- Ryzhov – 89 (but a 95 in skills)
- Hug – 90
- Donnelly – 82 (something, something Akinfenwa)
- Jung – 80, (unless he’s just scored/hasn’t run that day, in which case he’ll try and be like an 83)
- Bohmer – 87 (underrated legend)
- Forrest – 81
- Draut – 88 usually, but 99 when he goes Beast Mode along the left flank
- Kentucky Johnson – 57/Fuck you ref
- Kauzlaric – 86
- Masson – 83, but 10x better than Ryan Mason on Tottenham. Tottenham should just go away.
- Pleva – 84 + 7 points for being Italian and playing defense
- LaBoe – 73
- Schauer – infinity? We’ve literally never been losing while she’s in goal…
- Arpan – use your hands
- Karli – come back
- Elise – same as above
- Jazmine – said she’d show up to the game, liked the GroupMe, and then didn’t show up. Lame!
- Beach – where you at fam?
- Now that you’ve definitely taken those seriously, that’s the end of this column.