Snowy Season Opener Sees Union Draw

Union Dubuque F.C. opened their 2019 UPSL campaign just down the road in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, but the expansion Inferno team was not the only new experience for the Union. Several inches of snowfall had blanketed the area, causing the match to take an admittedly different tone.

 
Snow-covered match balls just before kickoff. Changes to the UPSL schedule forced teams into an early start this year, which opens the door for weather-related issues early in the season.  PC: Stephen Packer

Snow-covered match balls just before kickoff. Changes to the UPSL schedule forced teams into an early start this year, which opens the door for weather-related issues early in the season.

PC: Stephen Packer

 

The Cedar Rapids Inferno, an expansion team new for this summer founded by former Union player Kenan Malicevic, were playing their first-ever competitive match as a club, something that Union manager Jon Denham particularly appreciated. Referring to the match, Denham stated, “I'm proud of Kenan and his group in Cedar Rapids. I love that they were able to open their season against us, the other eastern Iowa team in the league. At the end of the day, we're all in this together as we try to grow the game here and offer this level of play to our communities and players.”

The match kicked off and the chilled crown was eager to support the Inferno as they controlled the opening stages of the game. The hosts created several promising chances and even hit the crossbar of the goal, but were unable to convert. Despite the early pressure, it would be Union Dubuque who would take the lead in the 26th minute through Josh Kutzke. The Union midfield pressured a loose Inferno ball well, and Kutzke coolly slotted home past the Inferno goalkeeper.

 
Union forward Joshua Kutzke shields the ball from a Cedar Rapids player.  PC: Cedar Rapids Gazette

Union forward Joshua Kutzke shields the ball from a Cedar Rapids player.

PC: Cedar Rapids Gazette

 

Although it appeared that Union Dubuque would take their lead into halftime, a late scramble in the visitors’ penalty area gave the Inferno the opportunity to score their first-ever goal and tie the game up at 1 goal each with the last kick of the half.

The second half began with Union finding the control that they were lacking in the early part of the match. After creating several chances, Union took the lead for a second time through Mo Diallo’s 71st minute goal. Diallo was played in behind the right flank of the Cedar Rapids defense by Alejandro Cosmopolis and produced a great finish low to the goalkeepers left to give the advantage back to Dubuque. However, that advantage wouldn’t last long, as Cedar Rapids were awarded a penalty kick just 6 minutes later, which they converted to tie the match at 2-2.

The last moments of the match became frantic as both teams searched for a winner. Ultimately, neither side were able to find one and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Although disappointing, Union can take heart from the several “firsts” that were recorded in this match. Josh Kutzke (Union Dubuque’s first rostered player) scored his first goal for the club. Alejandro Cosmopolis tallied his first assist, and Mo Diallo (Union’s first-ever goalscorer) got off to a great start again. The club also recorded its first draw since beginning play last year.

Manager Jon Denham offered his thoughts on the match, saying “A point on the road in the league will always be something we can be proud of, but I still would have liked to come away with all three points. There's certainly work to do as we head into May, but when you consider the changes we needed to make in the back line and the wild conditions, especially early on, we did well.”

Union Dubuque will be back in action after a modest break on May 17th, when they travel to DeKalb before returning for the home league opener at Rock Bowl Stadium on May 19th against Croatian Eagles SC.

 

match in pictures

 

Pictures from Stephen Packer and the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Cliff Conrad