Three sets of big cats and Brigands reach semifinals
Stars and Stripes May 16, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The Ansbach Cougars weren’t happy with their start to the DODEA Division II European boys soccer championship on Monday.
Sure, the tournament’s top seed took care of business with a win over Alconbury, but the undefeated Cougars believed they hadn’t played well.
“Knowing that (Monday) we could have done much a lot better, that was the first game we didn’t do so good,” Ansbach sophomore Daeveon Browne said. “We knew we needed to pick it up and do good today.”
Well, “good” can describe Ansbach’s performance Tuesday at Kaiserslautern High School. The Cougars completed group play with a 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Brussels to finish atop the group and advance to the semifinals Wednesday.
The two-goal victory on Monday wasn’t the only thing the Cougars (7-0) had in the back of their minds, as they remembered last year’s tournament defeat to the Brigands (4-4).
“I don’t know if they feel this way, but it’s kind of become this rivalry between us and them,” Ansbach coach Paul Rauscher said. “Every single time it’s an extremely hard-fought game. We lost to them in pool play last year after beating them in the regular season, so it was nice to pay it back (this year).”
Tuesday, Ansbach left no doubt about the outcome early.
Goals by senior captain Isaac Willis and Browne in the first seven minutes gave the Cougars a two-goal advantage. Browne added a pair of goals in the 18th and 34th minutes to complete a hat-trick, chipping Brussels keeper Yulian Tolkachov on the second and bungling home a failed clearance off a corner for the third.
In the second half, Browne passed to Benjamin Schuck right before he dribbled around a defender for a goal in the 46th minute, and after Davit Arakishvili got the Brigands on the board in the 58th minute, Browne scored almost immediately after the restart, driving past the defense in the process.
“Electricity, goals, offense … you see it, he makes things happen,” Rauscher said of Browne.
Next up for the Cougars is AFNORTH (6-2-1). The Lions bounced back from an opening-day loss to Sigonella with a 7-0 win over Baumholder.
AFNORTH scored all seven goals in the first 20 minutes. Sophomore Michael Teichl posted a hat-trick and an assist on a Nicolas Sava goal within the first 14 minutes, Christian Barone scored off a low cross by Ronnie Macauley, junior midfielder Oscar Sanchez converted a shot from distance and Sava pounced on a rebound for goal No. 7.
“It’s always important when we have a less-than-stellar performance to have players and coaches handle that mentally and emotionally,” AFNORTH coach Mike Miano said. “It was great our players were able to come back with positive attitudes and not let the loss yesterday get to them.”
The Cougars and Lions now turn their attentions onto each other, as they will square off in a semifinal Wednesday at Kaiserslautern High School. Browne said based on what he and his teammates have witnessed over the tournament’s first two days, it will be Ansbach’s biggest test yet.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough game,” he said. “They’re definitely a good team, but if we play as good as we did today, I think we can win.”
As for the other semifinal, defending champion Sigonella completed a perfect pool play with a 6-0 win over Spangdahlem on Tuesday. Combined with wins over Baumholder (7-0) and AFNORTH (2-1) on Monday, the Jaguars (7-3-1) clinched the top spot in their group.
It took a while for Sigonella to get going on Tuesday, however. The Sentinels held the Jaguars to one goal in the first half and were excited heading into the break, but a backheeled goal by sophomore midfielder Gabe Naselli (also his second of the match) in the opening minute of the second half opened the flood gates.
A pair of own goals and one by sophomore Mikolaj Czernielewski and senior Tim Garcia came in a 14-minute span early in the second period.
“It just took a while before clicked on all cylinders,” Sigonella coach Andrew Caro said. “They turned it on in the second half and played well.”
The Jaguars now face the Brigands in Wednesday’s other semifinal. While flying high at the moment, Caro said Sigonella isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“We’re No. 1 in the group, but that doesn’t earn any awards,” Caro said. “We’re the defending champions, and we never underestimate any opponent. We look forward to the semifinals.”