By Justin Haggerty
The Risers on Saturday hosted Flint-based Waza Flo in just the second indoor soccer game ever played at historic L.C. Walker Arena. It was a rematch of December’s first game, which was won by Waza 7-6.
Waza Flo, a professional indoor team, won again on the field, 7-3, but Muskegon once again showed that soccer is on the rise in the area with another big turnout that impressed the Risers organization.
Risers owner Matt Schmitt was so impressed, in fact, that he plans on seriously looking into making the Risers a year-round team with a full arena schedule in the winter.
“We set the standard pretty high our first time out (the December meeting), and we definitely exceeded expectations,” Schmitt said. “Just from an overall community involvement experience standpoint, that’s our primary focus.
“I think we’re going to look at (a full-year team), I think it makes sense. We’ll talk with the city and go from there. I think it would make sense for everybody.”
Schmitt also indicated that the Risers will remain an independent team team this summer, like they were in their inaugural season last year. The franchise had flirted with joining a professional summer league.
The Risers will kick off their 2016 home outdoor season on May 28 against CKS Warta, a team Muskegon defeated 3-0 last season.
Schmitt said an independent schedule provides the most flexibility in scheduling that will help grow the game in this area.
“We’re going to stay independent,” Schmitt said. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff, ultimately (community) is our primary goal. We have a lot of exciting away match-ups and a lot of exciting home match-ups. We have traditions we’re going to continue from 2015.
“(We’re going to) facilitate positive social and economic change. The big thing, we’re keeping Muskegon rising with our outreach program in the Heights. We’re going to continue to push more toward the downtown district, this is when Muskegon is at its best.”
On the field, Muskegon was overmatched by the full-time Waza Flo team. They were outshot 13-8 in the first half and trailed 4-0 at halftime.
Waza got a goal from owner/coach Dominic Scicluna and a trio of goals from Leo Carduso in the first half.
In much the same story as last summer’s outdoor season, the Risers had numerous scoring opportunities but shot just wide, just high, or hit a post.
“I could tell (Risers players) were frustrated at halftime,” Riser coach Ben Ritsema said. “I just told them to keep working hard. “The soccer gods just weren’t looking after us, I guess.”
Frustrated but not giving up, the Risers continued to fight back in the second half. Muskegon native Eric Hilt got the Risers on the board less than two minutes into the second half from 15 yards out.
Carduso scored another two goals in the third quarter to put Waza Flo up 6-1 entering the fourth quarter. He finished with five goals on the night.
With the score out of hand, frustrations boiled over, resulting in multiple penalties for each team down the stretch, to the delight of the large crowd.
The Risers got goals from Jubenal Rodriguez and Job Potter in the fourth to cap their scoring. Waza Flo’s Clovis Malekani scored the final goal for the visitors.
“I thought the crowd was amazing, I wish we would have done more to get them on their feet,” Ritsema said. “We just put it wide or the goalie made a save or whatever else, it is what it is.”