It does not take long upon first entering the Schwaben AC center to realize the soccer experience is going to be different.
Wooden benches sit on the edge of the sidelines, offering no luxury for those who want to take in a game. A small patio is further back where the beer is cheaper than the bratwursts and the old men gather to share laughs and stories of the game they love. It's all they need to keep warm on a chilly spring day.
The players do not come from the Columbus Crew or have famous names like Angoy-Cruyff as their opponents do on this day. No training staff runs to their aid when they first hit the ground. That service is for the treasured Lion. The dirt and grass they fall on will heal the Schwaben men. Their teammate will pick them up to their feet and tell them to get on with it.
No singing supporter groups, no waving flags and in many cases not even a ball boy to fetch a kick out of bounds. Their motivation comes from each other. Their supports stand on the pitch with them. And just as in their youth, they still have no problem retrieving their own ball if they kick it out.
Soccer is played for soccer. Not for cups or glory.
Nothing comes easy in Schwaben's home – a home for hard work, sweat and blood. The pitch at Schwaben demands all three before you walk off it for the day. Those who wear the home blue have learned to give it freely. Those in opposing colors have it ripped out of them.
The reality hit USL Pro side Dayton hard. Schwaben had not played a full 90 minutes this season. Dayton came in with seven games under its belt and against competition such as LA Galaxy II. None of it mattered in Schwaben. The home side came out and dominated possession for the first 20 minutes.
Mark Blades was the engine, Jochen Graf was the mind and James Mack was the creator. The trio of Schwaben players made life difficult all game for Dayton, creating chances and connecting with each other constantly, especially in the opening.
The first five chances went to Schwaben, each failing after a mishandled touch or a hard shot sailing either over the crossbar or wide. One chance did get on frame when big man Joshua Wittenberg flicked a header after a Blades cross.
Like any good Lion, Dayton did not panic and stayed patient during Schwaben's attack. Then the men in orange struck hard and fast. After intercepting a long throw in, the Lions showed the speed and quality that separates them from the pack. After playing on the left side all game, Jesjua Angoy-Cruyff ran to the right where he streaked down the sideline.
Shortly after crossing midfield, he sent in a cross to the speedy Eli Garner who finished a great sliding attempt to score the opening goal. Garner's pace throughout the game caused Schwaben's defense to lose shape at times.
Schwaben only came stronger after the goal, nearly taking advantage of a scramble in the Dayton box after a corner kick that saw goalkeeper Brad Stuver stop a hard, point-blank shot for his best save of the day.
The second half is where Dayton would find nothing comes easy. They tried to control possession and sit back with a lead, but Schwaben would not allow it. Dayton accumulated three of its four yellow cards in the half, none more telling than Sebastian Thuriere's pull down on Blades who had burned right past him. Blades' run showed there would be no breather given.
The free kick came from a dangerous area, but as was the case the whole game, Schwaben could not find a finishing touch in the final third. Coach Tom Cholewa kept pushing for more offense, bringing on super sub Robert Novak who bolstered the Schwaben offense immediately and found himself in wide open spaces on both sides of the box.
Two of his chances seemed as if they were inches from missing the post.
While the Novak substitution was beneficial for Schwaben, Dayton's manager Sid van Druenen made the move of the match in the 70th minute bringing on the towering Joe Broekhuizen right before taking a corner kick. The move paid immediate dividends as Broekhuizen headed the corner kick straight down in the box where Angoy-Cruyff was able to get just enough of a foot on it to flick it in.
Schwaben would push hard for the next 20 minutes and frustrate Dayton. Lions fouled. Lions fell. At one point, two of Dayton's players were nursing injuries on the sidelines as Schwaben kept pushing. Dayton would be uncomfortable for the full match. There would be no keep-away played.
The game's last great chance came from Schwaben's most decorated player in Quavas Kirk a former Generation Adidas player, U-17 national member and MLSer. He sent a rocket that looked destined for the top right corner, but again it just missed.
In Schwaben, there is no time to lick wounds. Cholewa looked drained after doing everything in his power to get his side to advance in the tournament after qualifying for the first time in 50 years, but he made no excuses and had no regret.
"If someone came out here at times and watched us play we were head-to-head with them" Cholewa said. "The guys just said 'Hey, we're going try to do this again.' It's the first time here in a long time. It was exciting and I think we can do it again."
Leaving Buffalo Grove with a 2-0 victory and a shot at Indy Eleven in the next round, midfielder and Columbus Crew loanee Matt Walker said the team would wear the bruises from their encounter with Schwaben.
"It was extremely competitive from the start," Walker said. "We knew they were going to give it everything they had and they did. Both sides had chances and we were just able to capitalize on ours."