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Milwaukee Bombers arrow News arrow Club News arrow Match Report: International Cup
Match Report: International Cup
These are the match reports from the 2005 International Cup.

The Evolution of the Revolution

Third Place in the 2005 International Cup

by Paul "Plugger" O'Keeffe

 

 

(Melbourne, Australia) - A play-off for third is always a tough match. The rewards of a win are significant, while the disappointment of not making the final are palpable. For the US, a win would mean a significant step upwards in the world ratings (from 5th in 2002), and for Ireland, redemption as they were unable to defend their 2002 crown.

 

From the start, the venom of the previous encounters were not evident. This was a game of football, not a game of life or death. It was still a hard fought game, but skills were on display today. The USA ball movement was excellent in the first half. The spaces looked wider than in any previous match. The USA was able to do all the little things that the pressure cooked games of PNG and New Zealand did not allow them to do.  The Revos scored 3 goals in the first quarter and 4 in the second. They looked unbeatable and displayed their best form of the tournament. All this, while the Irish were kept goalless.

 

The half time score read: USA 7-3:45 to Ireland 0-5:5

 

Ireland finally scored in the third from a free-kick directly in front of goals. This spurred Ireland and they started to show some heart. They scored a second. Ireland slowly clawed their way back, but a 7 goal deficit would be too much for any team to overcome. Ireland scored again. The Revos need to knuckle down and focus as the game is not over.  The US score in the third to steady, but then they give away a silly free-kick in front of goal on the siren. But Ireland fails to capitalize and they kick it out of bounds on the full. The Revos have given away too many undisciplined frees throughout the tournament and this will be an area to work on before 2008.  The Irish made some serious inroads, but the score is still weighted heavily in favor of the USA; 8-4:52 to 3-5:23.

 

A scuffle between the players as they broke into their respective huddles for the third quarter break shows that both teams want to walk away in third place.  Coach Al Nugent spoke calmly to his players “don’t let them get a goal and rest of the game is irrelevant”. Meanwhile the Irish coach took a more proactive approach screaming: “ use your legs, use your hearts, work as a team.”

 

The Irish scored quickly, but that would be all the majors they would get in this game. At the other end, Dustin Jones marked and goaled. Within the next 60 seconds he had scored again with a nice goal on the run. These goals steadied the Revolution who ran out the remainder of the clock for a historic win.

 

Final: USA 10.5.65 to Ireland 4.6.30

 

Goal Kickers: Jones (4), C. Ellis (2), Loring, Thurmond, Purcell, Curry (1)

Best: Jones, Lucero, James Brunmeier, Nelson, C Ellis, Thurmond

 

Assistant Coach Robbie Oliver had a big grin that his handlebar moustache could not hide; “At the start of the tournament we said we would never be beaten for effort. We were third because we lived by that and were NEVER beaten for effort”. Coach Nugent’s smile could be more easily seen; “I wouldn’t have thought we would have beaten Ireland by 6 goals. We have improved significantly and this result shows how far we have come. The last few percentage points of improvement will be the hardest.”

 

The flow of the Revo’s game shows what can be accomplished when you focus solely of footy for 2 intensive weeks. The Revo’s play a physical game that will continue to improve over the next three years as we prepare for the 2008 version of the Cup.

 

In the Grand Final at the MCG, New Zealand beat Papua New Guinea. PNG had the crowd behind them as they made a spirited comeback in the last quarter to get within 5 points of the Kiwi’s, but NZ hung tough to become the eventual winners.

 

It was a great tournament and one that the entire USAFL should be proud of what our boys have accomplished. Special thanks to all the staff that made the trip possible, especially to Mark Wheeler, who had everything ready for the team when they arrived in Australia, and Alan Nugent, who coached the Revos with style and grace.

 

 

Kiwis Outplay the Revo's

by Paul "Plugger" O'Keeffe

 

August 11, 2005

 

 

(Melbourne, Australia) - A spirited American Revolution team was denied the right to play the International Cup final at the MCG by a solid New Zealand output. The Kiwis ran out winners by 5 goals in a score that did not reflect the closeness of the game. It was a hard fought contest from the opening Haka to the final throw-in. In the end the superior marking of the Kiwi's around the ground was the difference.

Before the game the Kiwis danced their Haka and nearly came to blows with the US players when they encroached a little bit too far. The mood of the Haka floated throughout the entire game with neither side giving an inch.  A strong cross-wind was whipping across the ground and favored the City end; the end that the Kiwis were kicking. In the past few games the Revos had given up easy points in the first 60 seconds of each quarter. Was this going to happen today? They kept the Kiwis at bay for 2 minutes before they triumphantly scored.

Tough tackling by the Revos shocked the New Zealanders. After an easy draw that saw the New Zealanders playing 4 easy games (proven by their 500 plus percentage) they were not ready for the Revo's venom. They knew they were in a contest. A kiwi shot for goal that went out of bounds on the full was the USA reward. A silly 50 meters penalty put the Kiwis in front of goal, but a point was all it deserved. USA gives away another 50 and this one did result in a goal, putting the Kiwis 2 goals up at the quarter. The superior marking of the Kiwis was proving to be the difference. The USA's inability to hold a mark under a real contest and the ability to smoothly pick up the ball was making it hard work for the Revos.

At the quarter break Coach Al Nugent urged his players to create more dead balls in the tackles to stop the NZ running game. This game I sent the lovely Dr. Tif into the NZ huddle to gain information for usfooty.com readers. There is no way they would suspect Dr. Tif. The NZ coach stated something along the lines like..."hearts and heads will win this game. They don't respect our country and they don't respect our football."

This was a critical quarter coming up for the US as they had the wind. They have to maintain the pressure.

The US came out tackling even harder and kept the Kiwis at bay. Every time NZ looked for the back option handpass the Revo's swooped down. In many cases they had to look for 4 or 5 back passes to create any space, sometimes driving the Kiwis back 30 meters. It was great tenacious football. However, NZ stuck at it and goaled through a great individual effort across the forward line.

Big Jay Mueller marks and goals for the USA, but NZ come back with a quick reply. At the quarter it is USA 1-1:7 to New Zealand 4-3:27.

At the half I caught up with the legendary Doc Cheffers and asked him for his learned opinion; "The forward line have to fight much harder for the ball. We need to move the ball quickly out of the center."

The second half started badly for the Revo's. A quick score for NZ made the deficit 4 goals. A horrible call for a NZ free kick in front of goal increased the hurdle to 5 goals. And then a Kiwi snap for goal made it 7. Is it all over? The Kiwis sitting around me think it is.

The USA push forward but kick into the man on the mark. The USA bottled the ball in the forward line and are eventually rewarded with a goal, but the Kiwis hit straight back and score. The USA push forward and score again. It is close to the siren now. We cannot let the Kiwis get a quick score now or the game will be over. The USA tackles hard and the siren goes. The third quarter scores are NZ 8-3:51 to USA 3-2:20. A 5 goal deficit.

Robbie Oliver urges the players on in the huddle; "we are still in it. Lets beat them now the...(use your imagination)" Coach Al sums it up by saying "we are not here to make up the numbers".

Dr. Tif returns with the inside scoop from the NZ huddle; "no free kicks, shepherd and protect your mates".

NZ starts off with a grubber kick that dribbles trough for a goal. The Kiwis goal again. The USA is in desperation tackle after desperation tackle but cannot convert. Finally, a free kick in front of goal and theUSA score. The USA scores again, but it is too little too late. The siren goes and NZ celebrate; the USA heads drop. But they shouldn't drop. Keep your heads high boys; you have done yourself, your league and your country proud. Coach Oliver summed it up "we are very proud of the team. They were never beaten for effort. The dedication and effort put forth by the team has been tremendous and we have improved our ranking over 2002."

Coach Nugent was reflective after the game; "we played quality opposition. Three years ago we were not competitive with the likes of NZ and PNG. I look forward to further improvement from the US in the next 3 years to the point where PNG and NZ no longer have the upper hand."

Final: USA 5.2.32 to NZ 10.4.64
 

Goal Kickers: Mueller, Bradley, Jones, Blenkenskip, Butler
Best: Lucero, Blenkenskip, Butler, Jones, James Brunmeier
 

In the end the ability of the New Zealanders to take and hold a contested mark proved the difference. This gave them breathing space from the USA tackling and allowed them to steady the ship at the most crucial times. The USA needs to work on its movement into the forward line in order to capitalize on the hard work in the midfield.

The USA now faces Ireland, on Saturday, in the playoff for third. PNG beat Ireland in the other semi-final 5.4.34 to 3.7.25

The analyses aside the Revo's have performed well. We are on a long journey and have a number of years to catch-up to PNG and New Zealand. If the journey was easy, it would not be worth taking.

 

 

PNG Outlast the Revo's in a Thriller!

by Paul "Plugger" O'Keeffe

 

August 9, 2005

 

 


(Wangaratta, Australia) - Two undefeated teams faced each other today in the Victorian country town of Wangaratta.  Papua New Guinea (PNG), seeded second coming into the tournament and the United States, who shoved the monkey off their back last Friday when they knocked off Ireland. The teams literally faced each other during the anthems and then the PNG Mosquitoes danced their war Haka right into the faces of the USA team. Both teams knew they were in for a battle.

This game will be decided by the team that can use the broad open space the best. PNG are a physical and quick team. They have the advantage of having grown up with the game. The USA match-up well with strength and speed, but footy experience may be the difference.

With the pre-game ceremonies and tongue pointing out of the way, the game knocked-off with a fierce tempo. PNG drew first blood when the ball hit the post. The USA's first foray forward did not make it into the 50. PNG rebounded quickly (they do everything quickly) and marked in the goal square. You had the sense that with constant numbers running with ball the Mosquitoes could grab the game by the scruff of the neck and not let go. But within a minute the Revo's had answered back. George Lakomy, aka Kidney, scooped the ball up and kicked a classic goal on the run, He kicked a grubber across the body and willed the ball to bounce through. He played it like a pro. When you win the center tap and get the ball forward quickly you can create opportunities.

The Revo's thrusted forward again. James Brunmeier made a long run from the center square, took the ball off the pack and ran into an open goal. Two goals to the USA.

PNG had the dropsy's. The pressure the Revo's created at every contest was showing. But PNG had more players at the fall of every ball, especially in their defensive 50. It would be a chess match.

Dustin Jones was moved into a tagging position on number 11, David Evertius.

James Brunmeier marked about 40 meters out. As he ran in the siren sounded and he kicked true. It was the best kick of his life. His kick gave the Revo's a nice lead; 3-0:18 to 1-2:8. The PNGers had moved the ball better, but the USA had taken their opportunities to the bank.

The quarter huddle was a sight to behold. The red, white and blue of the Americans surrounded by spectators 5 or 6 deep, with hundreds of the local school kids kicking the footy in the background. Coach Nugent urged his players to continue to run and chase; we have the jump on them and we need to kill their spirit.

 

Team Won Lost Points For Against P.C.
New Zealand 4 0 16 337 58 581.0
Papua New Guinea 4 0 16 206 129 159.7
Ireland 3 1 12 166 56 296.4
USA 3 1 12 166 106 156.6
Samoa 2 2 8 195 207 94.2
South Africa 2 2 8 158 172 91.9
Japan 1 3 4 128 178 71.9
Great Britain 1 3 4 69 219 31.5
Canada 0 4 0 116 143 81.1
Spain 0 4 0 45 318 14.2

 

The PNGers had not heard the speech from Coach Al because they came out inspired and scored from a snap shot within the first 60 seconds. The Mosquitoes pushed forward again, through quick hands, and snapped again. The dropsy's had become contagious and the US had caught them. It bounced true, just missing the post. PNG had turned the game on its head and were now up by three. This was the test the USA expected.

James Brunmeier marks again. He kicks true. It was a fitting reward for good USA ball movement. USA back in front by 2.
 

PNG push forward and get a free kick on an impossible angle. Let me re-type that...a possible angle as the kick just makes the distance. PNG push forward again. The ball is in the air; the siren goes. This time it was PNG that got the advantage of the siren.

At the half it is USA 4-0:24 to PNG 5-4:34. PNG had hit the front due to inspired efforts in the first and last two minute stretches of the quarter.

PNG have had more numbers to the fall of the ball and are running in numbers. You would swear they were running 22 on the field. However, the Revo's had taken advantage of their opportunities, but will they be able to keep PNG quiet for long enough. A semifinal spot is not in the bag for the Americans and they need the win to make sure they are still in the hunt to play Saturday at the MCG.

The cry of "USA" comes rumbling up through the grandstand where we are sitting. The Revo's have been a second half team this tournament, and you just hope they will continue that trend today. The USA controls the first five minutes of the quarter, but they cannot capitalize. PNG has a great run against play, going the full length of the field to score a goal. Fast hands, but faster feet. The Revo's are unable to score until PNG make a mistake in front of goal. Brandon Blankenship mops up in front and scores easily. The Revo's have cut it back to 10 points.

The ball moves forward again and Charlie Ellis takes a strong mark in front. But it is called a ball-up as both teams marked the ball. The USA ends up with a point from that thrust forward. Tenacious tackling by the USA has kept them in it and they are clawing back one point at a time. The Revo's work hard to create space and use the back pass, but to be effective against a fast side like PNG, the back pass needs to be 10 meters, not 3.

For the third straight quarter a kick is awarded as the siren goes. This time it is the USA's chance, but only a point can be gained from the advantage. USA had the wind in the third, did all the hard work, but could not convert. The USA trail by 6 points 5-3:34 to 6-4:40.

As we move into the last quarter the wind is picking up. This will make it harder for the Revo's. PNG has numbers running through the middle and score within the first 60 seconds. PNG jump to a 10 point lead...can it be overcome? USA lifts the pressure at every contest. PNG kicks it out on the full, and then out on the full again. It is scrambling footy now. It is all desperation. The pressure causes another ball to go out of bounds on the full. Yet again, it is out of bounds on the full. Could this be the great escape? Four times the PNGers have shot at goal and seen it float wide, very wide. This time they hit the post and the lead stretches to 12 points and then 13 points. That makes it three kicks for the Revo's to catch-up, and the minutes are running low. Jeff Purcell, aka Fingers, takes a specky right in front and kicks true. They now trail by 7 and have a sniff.

The USA runs forward again from the bounce. James Brunmeier marks again on the line. He runs around to improve the angle and scores...and then the siren sounds. PNG in a nail-biter. A brilliant last 2 minutes by the USA and they show great pride to claw their way back into the contest. Those last two goals could be an important for percentage. So close...just one point short.

Final: USA 7.4.46 to PNG 7.5.47

Goal Scorers: James Brunmeier (4), Lakomy, Purcell, Blankenship (1)
Best: James Brunmeier, C. Ellis, Mueller, Lucero, Strenski, Carroll

After the game the Revo's congratulated the Mosquitoes in the middle of the ground and the large crowd of a few thousand spectators cheered in applause of a fantastic game of footy. The Revo's were lead off the field behind co-captain Donnie Lucero. The Revo's win as a team, but they lose as a team as well.

After the game Coach Al Nugent told me how proud he was of the team; "they were fantastic. We drew the first and second seed and we still made the semi-finals." Assistant Coach Robbie Oliver echoed those comments; "we refused to surrender and we missed out by the barest of margins"

James Brunmeier, with a best on ground performance, was already looking towards the semi-finals; "If we face them again we can beat them, but we still have a lot of work to do. We can still make the Grand Final".

The USA now needed to wait for the conclusion of round 4 to be certain of a semi-final spot. An upset by Samoa against New Zealand would see a nervous USA coaching staff getting out the calculators to work out the percentages. But that was not to be as New Zealand ran out easy winners in the last match of the day. Ireland knocked off a spirited Japanese side, Great Britain won by two points over Canada and South Africa beat Cup new comers Spain.

The semi finals on Thursday see PNG take on Ireland and New Zealand face the Revo's. New Zealand were given the easiest draw into the semi's and have not been pushed by any of the teams they have faced to date. This easy run will hurt them when they come up against a Revo side looking for redemption after today's loss.
 
 

Luck of the Irish to the Revo's!

Round 2 Wrap

by Paul "Plugger" O'Keeffe

August 5, 2005

 

 

(Melbourne, Australia) - The anticipation for this match-up had been building for three years. At the 2002 International Cup Ireland was able to hold off the strong finish of the Revolution at Skilled Stadium in Geelong. When the draw for the 2005 version of the Cup was published this was the game that the USA circled first.

 

At breakfast the Revo players were quiet and reserved; not in fear of Ireland but with intense focus on the task ahead. Coach Alan Nugent had given the boys their instructions; narrowed down to five team rules for this game.

 

The warm-ups were over, the anthems sung and the coined tossed (Americans winning the toss). A cross breeze was floating across the ground, favoring the southern end slightly. The crowd grew in anticipation of the bounce. It was game on. Ireland won the first tap and the ball streamed straight into the Irish forward line. The ball went straight through the goals, but thankfully for the Revolution it had been touched off the boot further up field and Ireland hit the lead by a solitary point.

 

The game then settled down (if you can call it that) into a tough, hard fought affair. Under pressure from the Irish the USA made many forced mistakes, but when the USA looked good they looked very good. The majority of the play after the first 30 seconds took place in the USA side of the field but they could not capitalize. The quarter time score was Ireland 1 point to USA 2 points.

 

A quiet Alan Nugent took the boys into a tight huddle and urged the Revo’s to play in front. This intrepid reporter send a spy into the Irish huddle to gather information…the Irish coach got into his players for not manning up and asked his players for better use of the ball.

 

In the second quarter the USA midfield was winning the battle in the midfield but the long kick into the forward line was being dampened by the Irish smothering defense. Marks in the forward line were harder to come by than Vegemite in an American grocery store.

 

This created little mistakes by the USA, which undid much of the good work around the ground. However, the Irish were unable to take advantage of those mistakes. Two USA kickouts after points went straight down the throat of the Irish. Finally, one of the Irish sent the ball into the goal line. First blood Ireland. The goal was disputed that it had not crossed the line. Full back, Brad Rinklin, was behind the line, but the ball was not. After the game Brad confirmed that the ball had not crossed the line, but when the goal umpire waves the flags the discussion is all over.

 

At the half the USA had 80% of the play, but the score line read Ireland 1 goal 3 points to the Revo’s 2 solitary points.

 

In the third quarter the intensity of the game lifted. For much of the term it looked like an Under 8’s Mosquito Fleet game with players surrounding the ball and neither team able to get any run on. Added into the rolling commotion was the terrific one percenters by either side; smoothers, tackles, tap-ons, punches. No single player dominated for either team. The Revo’s had kept the one Irish threat silent; and the Revo’s are a team that does not rely on a single individual.

 

A huge goal by David Thurmond lifted the USA. It was a long kick from the dead pocket. In order to get the distance he threaded it through the man on the mark to gain that extra yard. The USA’s determination at the ball was paying results. The third quarter time score saw the Revo’s behind, but with the wind in their collective sail. Ireland 1-6:12 to USA 1-3:9.

 

In the huddle Coach Nugent urged the players to kick long into the goal square in the last quarter.  His speech was reminiscent of Mel Gibson in Braveheart; “It is a huge challenge…an enormous opportunity. Three points behind with 15 minutes to go. It’s forever; we will prevail”

The mood in the Irish huddle was less optimistic. The coached urged his players to use their voice and “don’t be provoked”. The tone was nervous, the intensity lacking; “not good enough to be up by three points, nail it from here on in.”

 

The USA applied the pressure early in the fourth, but the opportunities went begging. Every forward thrust was for naught, other than hounding the spirit of the Irish, but points win games. Space could not be found on a 180 by 120 meter field. Finally a point, we are within 2. The Goal. George Lakomy marked and kicked true. Revo’s up by four, and it had yet to be in the Irish part of the field. Another kick in front of goal, another point, but also a missed opportunity.  Another point would be valuable; but kicked into the man on the mark; the next one runs out of bounds. Please, one more point.

 

The ball trickles into the Irish forward line. A free kick given the Ireland; in front; ticky touchwood; not even in the play. Ireland kicks, but it gets what it deserves…a point. The lead whittled to four. The ball traverses the wing in front of me. A mass of players; throw in after throw in. This is desperation stuff. After 80% of the play we cannot give up an easy score now. Bodies hit bodies. Seconds left, my heart is pumping…and then the siren. USA by 4. Ireland never got a run-on and it took our boys four quarters to do it.

 

Final: USA 2.5.17 to Ireland 1.7.13

 

Assistant Coach Robbie Oliver said right after the game: “the best win in Revolution history. We were down at the half but we refused to surrender”. The USA midfield won the game and the back-line suffocated their efforts. Ireland was kept goalless in the second half, and it could be argued the entire game. The forwards struggled, but got the goals when it mattered.

 

Coach Nugent was thrilled by the intensity and camaraderie shown by the players. “We have two things in common; we are Americans and we love footy.” A daunting recipe.

 

After the game I spoke with Matty Dainuski. This was his third game against Ireland. When asked about finally beating the Irish he commented; “It was our turn. We were well prepared and we outmatched their intensity”

 

Co-captain, Donnie Lucero, has also previously lost two times to the Irish; “It was pretty exhilarating. We have come so far. This win showed our progress as well as our untapped potential”.

 

It was a great team win. The team can now bask at the march past this evening at the Telstra Dome before the St Kilda/Geelong match-up. The attention then turns to Spain on Sunday and Papua New Guinea (another undefeated team) on Tuesday, in rural Victoria.

 

USA Best: Mueller; C. Ellis; Bradley; Butler; James Brunmeier; Beilfuss

Goal Scorers: Thurmond, Lakomy 

 

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