The Men's NSL Team faced tough competition Sunday afternoon, losing to Lakeview FC 2-0 at Wilson Turf Field.
The match was highly anticipated as being a difficult challenge by players and staff alike before kickoff due to the NSL Team's position within the NSL Chicago Division; prior to the match, Edgewater Castle FC was in a three-way tie for first alongside Lakeview FC and AFC Roscoe. Now following their loss, they have dropped into a four-way tie for second place amongst the Juanacatlan FC Gorillas, United FC, and the Berber City FC Reserves.
For a full overview of how the team is doing in the NSL, click here: https://www.nslchicago.org/fg/1_979757294.html
Men's NSL Team coach Jose Landa consults players before kickoff. Credit: Gareth Mullins
"These guys are a lot tougher than our previous competition," Men's NSL Team coach Jose Landa said. "We need composure, speed, and communication [to win]."
Despite utilizing these skills in the first half to keep the score 0-0 going into the second, the Rooks' efforts ran short in the final minutes of the game when Lakeview scored at 86' and 90'.
Rooks forward Major Hassan makes an offensive play in the second half. Credit: Gareth Mullins
Many players have credited the loss to a lack of taking opportunities in the opponent's backfield as well as a lack of composure against Lakeview. A string of insults amongst players during the game seemed to influence the Rooks' play in the second half, leaving Rooks like player/assistant coach Justin Timm to wish the Rooks were more reigned in mentally.
"We need to calm down," Timm said tensely from the sidelines, shifting around nervously.
Some of the frustration of players seemed warranted amongst players and staff, however, especially in regards to how Lakeview was playing against the Rooks in the second half. Many Rooks felt that the referee was not being equitable with his calling, as Lakeview only got 1 yellow called against them in the second; the Rooks on the other hand had multiple.
Rooks players and coaches comfort goalie Mason Muentz after a collision broke his nose. Credit: Gareth Mullins
Despite the referee's performance and the subsequent free kicks that followed, Rooks goalie Mason Muentz kept the Rooks in the game by continuously blocking shots, keeping the game scoreless after the first half. He maintained this momentum into the second, even after a Lakeview player slid into him after making a scoring attempt, breaking his nose at 72' and leaving him shaken up.
"[That hit] really made me dizzy and I couldn't see very well for the first few seconds," Muentz described.
Following the collision, the Rooks immediately rushed to his aid after the play. After a moment to catch his breath and the support of his teammates, Muentz picked himself up and continued to play the rest of the game, thinking only about how he could help his team.
Goalie Mason Muentz poses with his wounds after the game. Credit: Gareth Mullins
"I didn't want to get caught up in the talk, or what the ref was doing, I was just focusing on my game. Goalkeeping is kind of like you're on an island; you're kind of by yourself all the time except for your defenders, so I could only control what I could control. I focused on staying focused," Muentz said.
Despite the final score, many positives could be taken away from the game from Coach Landa.
"They literally beat us up," Landa joked, but we did play well today."
The Rooks now look to learn from their loss as their next game approaches on May 21st against Galacticos FC at Wilson Turf Field.