Brussels, Sigonella square off for title
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 21, 2014
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The Brussels Brigands and the Sigonella Jaguars will face each on Thursday to find out who will be crowned the 2014 DODDS- Europe Division III soccer champions.
The defending champion Brigands defeated the Incirlik Hodjas 2-0, while the Jaguars closed out their game against the Menwith Hill Mustangs, 5-4 in the semifinals held Wednesday. The final game will be a repeat of Tuesday’s 1-1 tie game between the two clubs, and both sides say they’re ready for the rematch.
“I’m happy we’re back in the finals,” said Brigand midfielder, Merab Chitanava. “We’re nervous, but we’re ready and we’re going to defend out title.”
Chitanava scored an early goal and striker Blake Cornforth sealed the victory with a scorching shot to the corner of the net in the waning minutes of the game.
According to Chitanava, the early lead let the Brigands play a more methodical, defensive game, which is exactly the type of game they’re comfortable playing.
Brigand goalie Matt Proulx anchored that defense, stonewalling every shot on goal, including a 45-second barrage that saw three potential scores batted away by the senior.
“Our defense played phenomenal,” he said. “There were no cracks and tomorrow, hopefully we’ll go out there and play the same.”
If the Brigands hope to come away from Thursday’s finals as champions, they’re going to have to contain Brian Thomas, the star midfielder for Sigonella.
Thomas dominated the semifinals, scoring three of his team’s five goals and directing the flow of offense throughout the entire 80 minutes.
“I feel like we had to be more defensive, but still aggressive,” he said. “Brussels is going to be a challenge, but I feel like we’re good enough to take on anything. That’s just how the Jaguars do it.”
While Thomas was the undisputed MVP of the game, fullback Bailey Jones set the tone with a goal in the first two minutes of the game.
Fullback Dylan Van Wynsberghe also scored early for the Jaguars, leaving the Mustangs way behind.
The Menwith squad fought back from that early 3-0 deficit though, with co-captains Shaun Brooks and Val Evans leading the charge. Brooks nailed a pair of penalty kicks and Evans sent a beautiful crossover to Ian Evans, who put it away for his only score of the game.
Even though they rallied back with four goals, the Mustangs just weren’t able to outpace the productivity of the Sigonella squad.
For star Jaguar Thomas, this will be his final year of high school soccer before he moves to Chicago to attend DePaul University, where he said he will continue to play soccer. He said the finals at Kaiserslautern will be the end of this chapter of his life, but will hopefully be the start of an even more storied career.
“It’s just such a great feeling to be in the finals again,” he said. “We won the championship my freshman year, so I started out as a champion. I want to end as a champion, too.”
Menwith Hill's Val Evans sweeps by Sigonella fullback Bailey Jones in a Division III semifinal game at the DODDS-Europe soccer championships at Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 21, 2014. The Jaguars beat Menwith Hill, 5-4 and will face Brussels in the finals on Thursday.
Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes