The Riot played their first home regular season Major Indoor Soccer League game last night vs. the Milwaukee Wave. The match had plenty of intrigue, as Peter Wilt's former team came into the Odeum looking to improve on their 3-0 start to the MISL season. The Wave were runners-up in the MISL championship last year and with the champions Monterrey La Raza now defunct, Milwaukee has started the season hungry to prove that they are the real top dog. The Riot were looking to deal the Wave their first loss and establish themselves as a legit MISL threat. Follow me after the break for a recap of the action...
One of the first noticeable things is that the MISL plays a lot like a mix of soccer and hockey, with constant line changes and balls being played around the boards frequently. Tweed Thornton attended the game and posted similar thoughts in the game thread. He noted that the MISL was an entirely different animal altogether, kinda like Seattle Sounder fans. Scoring kicked off with a Wave goal by Ryan Mack at the 10:29 mark in the first quarter to give the Wave a 2-0 lead. Milwaukee seemed to control the play early on, and they were able to maintain a comfortable edge over Chicago.
The Riot ended the 1st quarter strongly, firing a shot off the post with 2 seconds to go. After a very short break between periods, Milwaukee struck again with a goal by Hewerton Moreira to give the Wave a 4-0 lead. Riot keeper Jeff Richey didn't really have a chance on the shot and it ended up being a simple tap for Moreira. The Riot answered right back with a great ricochet shot by Dorin Oprea for a huge 3 point goal. Just when it seemed that the game was passing the Riot by, the gap was closed to one with the Wave still up 4-3.
Milwaukee gained some comfort back at the 6:49 mark when Marcio Leite scored to make it 6-3. A defensive lapse by the Riot allowed Leite to put the ball into the back of the net. Riot goaltender Jeff Richey was not out for the count though and he stepped up big to a deny a breakaway 1 on 1 chance the Wave's Evan McNeley ended up getting stonewalled on. Halftime came and the Riot were down 6-3. The more powerful thing I took away from the first half was that power plays in the MISL really remind me of hockey. I saw a lot of "cycling the ball" like you would see from the Blackhawks at the United Center on power plays. The defense in indoor soccer has a greater advantage because there's no icing. Once the cycle is caught, the defense typically sails the ball far down the other end.
The second half opened with a lot of back and forth action until Wave keeper Nick Vorberg had a huge save in the 3rd period that looked like it was going to be a sure Riot goal. Chicago had a prime chance to build on that momentum when they went on a power play shortly thereafter when the Wave's Moreira picked up a Blue Card. Chicago had lots of good looks, but couldn't net anything in. The Riot could not score on their power play and failed to convert a sweet 2 on 1 chance deep into the 3rd period. As we saw countless times this season in Fire games, the Chicago team lost the momentum and the visitors took advantage of the lack of finishing when Moreira scored his second goal to put the Wave up 8-3. Almost immediately, Marcio Leite netted yet another goal late quarter goal to put the Wave up 10-3.
Milwaukee went into a bit of a bunker mentality in the the 4th quarter and it looked like things might be pulling away like a No. 3 seed vs. a No. 14 seed in March Madness. Push hard they did to make up some ground, but the Riot found themselves down 10-3 halfway through the 4th quarter. As we also learned from the 2010 Fire, you can't bunker forever and and Roberto Gallo finally found a way to get the ball in the back of the net to make it 10-5 at the 7:41 mark. Not to be outdone, Eric Lukin put a tap in past Vorberg just two minutes later and the comeback inched closer at 10-7. Milwaukee went back to their original game plan and created some good chances that almost put the squad up another goal. The Riot created some shots that got fans out of their seats momentarily too but nothing came of it. With less than two minutes left, goaltender Jeff Richey called timeout. He was then replaced by an offensive player (swapping out the lone goalie jersey and all) to give the team a better chance to score a long-distance three point goal. It was a mad finish to the game as the Riot aligned themselves to fire the ball in, the Wave packed the goal with players and their goalie even tried to throw the ball down the court into the Riot's net and seal the game for good. While the Riot got off some rockets, it wasn't meant to be and the final score favored the Wave, 10-7.
I must say it was a very interesting game to watch. It's definitely something different from most other sports out there, but it was fast paced, fun to watch, and I am sure was really fun to be there in person. The listed attendance was just over 1,000, so hopefully that will continue to grow each game this season. The Riot get back in action Friday against the Omaha Vipers, also a new MISL team this year. They better hope to get a win there because they travel to Milwaukee the next day to take on the Wave again and if you can believe it, they play at the Odeum on Sunday against the Missouri Comets. They don't play NBA games three in a row, they only play baseball games three in a row when it's in one city, yet the Riot will go from Omaha to Milwaukee back to Chicago in a matter of three days. Krzysztof Krol signed with the team to get some more training in and I certainly hope he is ready. The Chicago Riot and Krol will need every ounce of good fortune they can get this week. We'll keep you posted as their three games in three cities in three days unfolds.