Our nationally ranked FUTSOC ENIGMA squad, provided a top-class performance at the recently concluded Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup XXXVIII, played at MoneyGram Soccer Complex, Richland College and Toyota Stadium, April 7th – April 16th, 2017.
Playing in one of the most complex and competitive groups in the event, our boys amassed 7 points on the strength of 2 victories, 1 tie and 0 losses, against top flight competition from the U.S. and internationally. Opening with a difficult 1::1 tie (goal by Esteban Escobar on a blistering shot on the edge of the penalty box) against perennial powerhouse Solar Chelsea, our game was cut short due to thunderstorm activity. With our team thoroughly dominating the match, the result after 60 minutes held up, due to incessant electrical activity, which forced waves of matches to be cancelled on our opening night. Considering our dominance, it seemed that the result, while not the most positive and appropriate outcome, would hold up in the end. The highly-respected opponent was limited to only three shots on goal during the entire match, while our boys sent wave after wave of attacks throughout the match.
In the second match, our squad met a historically top rated team, and the defending champions of the Dallas Cup. A team that had only met defeat on three occasions during the prior two seasons, these were to be our most difficult opponent and the match was no less impressive. With hundreds of players, spectators and college/pro scouts in attendance, the atmosphere was exciting and primed for a high-level match between two nationally renowned programs. The first half of play was most thrilling as both teams battled for control of the match. Top level players on both sides, kept the match quite balanced and a 0::0 scoreless tie at the midpoint, 45-minute mark. Close incursions into the other team’s penalty area, resulted in multiple chances for our boys, which barely missed their mark. Opening the second half, our boys came out even stronger, backing this most respected opponent into their back third and allowing our creative play to take hold of the match.
At the 65th minute, our standout forward Andrew Teuton, netted the opening score of the match on a brilliant combination pass play from the back, initiated by our super defender / left back Rio Ramirez who sent a brilliant pass to the top third left area. Received by our highly acclaimed left midfielder – Esteban Escobar, he immediately crossed the ball back to center, where an incoming Andrew Teuton shot to the near post, threading the needle past the outstretched opposing keeper….and providing a 1::0 lead. This lead would prove to be sufficient, as our team thwarted all other attempts at a buildup, which netted them only three shots on goal for the entire match. Then, with 5 minutes left in this very exciting match, our stellar center midfielder – Landon Lupo, took a low level 20-meter strike at the lower right post after a ricochet at the goal mouth on a shot by our Mike Wehrhahn, to give ENIGMA a 2::0 lead, it would never relinquish. With the three points, ENIGMA sat upon the top of the table with four points off the two difficult matches, with one game pending the next day against Seleccion Panama.
The last match of group play, was against a defeated but very dangerous and quality Panama team, which was attempting on salvaging their trip, after consecutive defeats to the other opponents. What started out as a potential rout, after taking an early 2::0 lead, got somewhat complicated as our boys were playing their third consecutive match against top level teams without rest and were exhibiting signs of fatigue. Opening with a beautifully placed corner kick from Landon Lupo to a charging Rio Ramirez, the header was perfectly placed into the upper corner of the first post, giving ENIGMA a deserved 1::0 lead in the early part of the opening half of play. The second goal came on a blistering outside foot shot from the edge of the box, once again by Landon Lupo, giving us a comfortable 2::0 lead into the halftime. In the second half, off a set play, the fine opponent found our net on a set play header from the edge of the area to the far post, which cut our lead to one goal. While the victory did not seem threatened, the concern became the tightening goal difference which could affect passage to the next round and quarterfinal play. In the late second half, after a cross by left winger Ethan Soto, created off a magical double dribble, the ball was sent to the middle where a charging Lucas Ferreira (right midfielder) played the ball perfectly into the net, for the 3::1 lead and the final result of the match. With this result, ENIGMA totaled 7 points, on the strength of 2 wins, 1 tie and 0 losses, off of 6 goals for and only 2 against - a plus 4 goal differential.
We would be remiss if we did not make mention of the outstanding play of our defensive players, who were the containment wall which resisted the powerful opponents and limited them to only two goals for the entire three 90 minute matches. Starting with the secure play of standout Center back Federico Gurtierrez, who cleverly managed the back line with great precision, initiated attacks from the back with his long-range balls and his occasional runs up the middle of the field and gave us a towering presence in the attacking third with his dominant heading capabilities. Left back extraordinaire – J Rio Ramirez, who played the position with great defensive tenacity – thwarting all attacks down the left flank and providing great offensive maneuverability on counterattacks. Similarly, on the right flank, the play of Kevin Becerra was equally impressive as he contained all attacks down the right side and pushed up on attack with great speed and ease of movement. Our two holding midfielders (Daniel Atilano and Federico Ucar) – two of the finest players anywhere, were the heart and soul of the defensive effort and they contained every single attack to goal, initiated blistering runs on counterattack and generally dictated the tempo during the entirety of the matches. As a special mention, it is important to note the tremendous effort displayed by the latter, playing with a recently severely dislocated shoulder which made playing very difficult given the great pain he had to endure during all matches. In short these two were brilliant! Long time squad member - speedy defender Alejandro Pages, saw more play time as the event went along, adding spells of relief to the defense which was crucial at the time he substituted. Reliable and consistent, he added needed support on our defensive third. He also played a very strong performance in our “friendly”against Super Group Red Bull Brasil. The midfield was another source of great admiration, as they managed the field tempo like the field generals they are. The outside play of Lucas Ferreira on the right was consistent, flowing and very balanced, as he made efficient runs down the flank, opened spaces and made plays to the middle into the attacking third. On the left flank, Esteban Escobar proved to be the overall most consistent player of the tournament for our fine squad, and his field leadership and dynamic play and goal/assists were crucial to our tremendous success. In the middle of the field, our stellar center midfielder and attacking dynamo – Landon Lupo, was the constant ignition for the club, initiating many of our chances and even finishing them off himself on brilliant crosses, triangulations and goals! Netting two goals and one assist over the course of the event, he was solid, consistent and in top form. Although seeing limited play time, one of our top-rated guests had solid performances in the matches and provided a key assist for the victory over Panama in game three. Similarly, another guest Ethan Soto, gradually contributed more each match and added the key assist on a brilliant dribble up the top third corner and cross to Lucas Ferreira for the final tally in the victory over Panama. The very talented Maximiliano Morales, another important contributor to our squad, spelled our starting midfielders with vast experience and solid and capable play, even adding a very important assist for the second goal against Panama.
On the front line, the attack was managed brilliantly by super attack player Andrew Teuton, who added a tremendous goal in the game versus Golden State FC for the lead. His excellent runs on and off the ball, which created havoc for the opponents, were key to our offensive success. Dependable Mike Wehrhahn, one of our most senior players, contributed greatly in tiring opposing defenses with his speed runs and combination play. His contributions would have been even greater, had our super attack forward Guillermo Deal not missed the event with an illness. Those two would have lit the field together and added a much greater attack. However, no less important were his contributions to our success! Lastly, on attack Kevin Gil provided a significant role in creating chances and wearing down opponents with his speed of play. Of course, mention of our keeper play is just as important as our two keepers – Orel Cohen and Deniz Dogru, proved to be excellent, limiting opponents to only two goals in three matches off two set plays. While the defense contained brilliantly, the performances by the keepers were crucial in originating quick counterattacks and stopping some key strikes against our net.