By Justin Haggerty
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Risers’ inaugural indoor soccer season came to a close Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena, and although it wasn’t the way they wanted to end the year, the season has to be considered a success.
The first year Risers hosted the Cincinnati Swerve, a team with more than a decade of indoor experience, and came out on the losing end in a 3-2 final.
The loss evens Muskegon’s final record at 3-3-2, with a 2-2-1 mark on their home pitch.
“A .500 season, maybe a couple of those ties we could have come back on, but I think we performed to my expectations,” head coach Ben Ritsema said. “There’s always room for improvement, we definitely got better.
“I thought tonight probably was our best game and last night was one of our best games as well, we got better as the season went on.”
The Risers are looking to build on this new experience for the city and want to grow their outdoor fan base as well, something Ritsema thinks will happen.
“Hopefully we made a lot of fans and they’re going to come see us in the outdoor season as well, outdoor will start (training) in a month, month and a half.
“(Indoor) had to be entertaining, even some of the shots we missed were some of best shots of the game. We definitely have talent, we have skill, I can’t say enough about the fans, we’re building that fan base and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Risers.”
Saturday started off as an exciting back and forth affair with each goalkeeper making acrobatic saves and both teams creating good scoring chances.
Cincinnati got on the board first when Christian Johnson’s shot was knocked down in front of the net by the Riser defense, but Matt Breines found it and beat Muskegon keeper Tim Bergsma to give the Swerve a 1-0 lead.
Muskegon responded less than two minutes later when TJ Ifaturoti deeked past the entire Cincinnati defense and blasted a shot to the back of the net to tie the game at one.
Cincinnati took the lead 1:22 later when Bergsma challenged Johnson and was beaten, Johnson lofted a soft shot to the net to put the Swerve up 2-1.
The Risers controlled much of the second quarter but could not solve the Swerve goalkeeper until just 3:13 remained until halftime.
At that time, Jacob Rajewski fired a shot so hard at the Cincinnati goal, the post broke before stopping in the back of the net, causing a lengthy delay to repair the damage and the game was tied at two going into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Cincinnati completed the scoring with 9:59 to play in the game.
Eddie Zavala had his shot blocked by Muskegon defenseman Michael Weber but was able to retain possession and launch the eventual game-winning goal.
The Risers controlled possession for the entire final minute, desperately trying to tie the game but most shot attempts were high or wide and Cincinnati escaped with a victory.
“I thought we played a really good, complete game,” Ritsema said. “They were in the national semifinal last year and won the division and I thought we hung right with them.
“We created the chances but we just missed some but that’s just soccer, you get your chances and sometimes you make them and sometimes you don’t.”