By Adam Knorr
The fans waited it out, and were rewarded.
Punctuated by a late bicycle-kick goal, the Risers (2-5-1) trumped Fort Wayne SC 5-0 at Reeths-Puffer High School, extending their unbeaten streak to three games.
After losing their first five games of the season, the Risers have rebounded with a tie and two victories.
“I would love to have a couple games back at the beginning of the year,” said Risers head coach Ben Ritsema. “Our system is perfect for the players that we have. (It) took me time to figure out all the players and for them to figure out their teammates’ strengths. Now we’re definitely peaking and I love our team depth.”
Muskegon spread the scoring wealth around with four players finding the back of the net.
Forward Paris Martins opened the scoring by taking a deep through ball past the last line of the Fort Wayne defense. Martins easily beat the goaltender and the goal counted, despite offside pleas from Fort Wayne defenders.
The Risers controlled the first half, but only had one goal at halftime to show for their efforts. They extended their lead quickly in the second half, however, as Daniel Luzindya headed in a corner kick and Kevin LaCroix converted a penalty kick to give Muskegon a 3-0 lead.
Luzindya later added another goal, but Justin Cartwright upstaged everyone.
With 12 minutes remaining, Cartwright firmly struck a ball in the box with a perfectly executed bicycle kick. The shot soared into the back of the net and put an exclamation point on a fun night for Risers faithful.
“I saw Jube (Rodriguez) win the ball in the air and it kind of just bounced right in front of me, I got really wide-eyed and from there it was just all reaction,” Cartwright said. “I left my feet and I was just fortunate enough for the ball to go in the back of the net and help my team win a game.”
Fort Wayne managed to mount a few attacks midway through the second half, but a diving save by Risers goaltender Tyler Lane and strong defense on corner kicks helped Lane earn the shutout.
“He was real strong, he’s getting more vocal in the back, he’s so sure-handed,” Ritsema said of his goalkeeper. “Everything that came stuck to his hands, he came off his line and we’ve been working on that with him. You can’t teach the size that he has, which is great too, and he’s reading the game very well, too.”
As the game weathered on, the challenges from both teams came with more force. The referees’ whistles were kept busy and their ears were kept full of complaints from both sides.
Despite the heated match, the Risers kept their cool.
“We have senior leadership, Stu Collins, especially, in the back,” LaCroix said. “(Collins) likes to keep us composed. He has that kind of dad mentality taking care of his kids, keeping everyone in line. We really appreciate that.”
The Risers are off next week, and will host Waza Flo FC on July 9.