By Adam Knorr
As the Risers were gaining traction as a first-year club last summer, Schmitt was looking for a way to establish a tradition to grow along with the team. An annual rivalry seemed to be the way to go, and in year two, both the Risers and Brewers are seeing the event pick up steam.
“It was important to develop a relationship and tradition with a team that was going to be sustainable, and with a team in Milwaukee which people could consider a sister city to Muskegon,” said Risers President of Operations Matt Schmitt.
Last season, the game was played for the Lake Michigan Cup. This year, however, the two sides will be playing for the Lake Express Cup, named after the Muskegon-Milwaukee Lake Express cross-lake ferry, which agreed to sponsor the event.
The Brewers will be taking the Lake Express across Lake Michigan for Saturday’s game.
“Not only are (the Brewers) sustainable, but they have a rich tradition themselves, so it’s a great opportunity for us to learn from them in addition to develop more of a high-profile relationship between Muskegon and Milwaukee,” Schmitt said. “The Lake Express is what facilitates that,”
Milwaukee Brewers FC has a number of different level clubs, and will be sending their Majors club over this season, as it did last year. The Brewers play all their games in the Milwaukee area except for the Lake Express Cup.
Though the rivalry is young, the atmosphere, bragging rights and trophy lend legitimacy to the budding tradition.
“In terms of our perspective on the event, I think we just love the opportunity to play against a team we don’t see too often,” said Brewers head coach Jim Keller. “It breaks us from our routine to give us great competition, and there’s a lot of excitement in the air for it.”
Besides playing for the Lake Express Cup, the Risers are seeking out their first win of the 2016 season after starting out 0-4.
They don’t expect the cup defense to be easy, however.
“As the game continues to be played there’s more and more pride that comes on the line,” Schmitt said. “Last year being the first year, obviously there’s no history, but this year there’s a sense of Milwaukee wanting to come in and win it and bring it back to their place. Obviously we want to defend it.”