Sons of Ransom Celebrate Lansing United’s Shootout win over RWB Adria
In the wake of their shootout victory against RWB Adria, OTF guest writer Eric Walcott reviews the match and the connection between NPSL’s Lansing United and their supporter group, the Sons of Ransom.
Lansing United seems to specialize in the dramatic. In their inaugural season, United won the Midwest Region’s Great Lakes West Conference by a single point. In the playoffs, they captured the regional championship with a win in extra-time. This week, United added another chapter to their short but magical story…
…advancing to the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a victory over RWB Adria in a penalty shootout after the teams played to a 0-0 draw.
What makes it all so special though isn’t just pulling out results in high pressure situations, it’s the bond that has formed between the club and its supporters. The players step out onto the field to do battle each week knowing that the Sons of Ransom, Lansing United’s supporters group, has their back.
The connection between players and supporters gives each group something to fight for. The players fight knowing the fans will be there to support them no matter the result. Supporters “up” their game, knowing what it means to the players.
Bonds like that are built with results like Wednesday’s USOC victory. United entered the game, realistically, as an underdog. RWB Adria is a club with a long history of success, including victories in last year’s Open Cup over NPSL club Detroit City FC and USL PDL club Michigan Bucks, whereas most of United’s players had been practicing together for two weeks or less, Adria has been playing together for much longer, including through the winter, and the chemistry was evident.
From the outset United was on the back foot, though they did enter the game prepared to spend much of it on the defensive. United Head Coach and General Manager Eric Rudland had emphasized defense in his preparations, and it was visible on the field. The backline of Austin Dunn, Ben Lamb, and newcomers Jimmy Fiscus and Freddy Gomes was solid, especially after Dunn and Gomes switched sides early in the first half, and the midfield trio in front of them shielded them well, breaking up attack after attack from Adria.
The lack of familiarity and chemistry among United’s attacking players was evident, as at times the team resorted to long balls out of the back to escape pressure, but most impressive was the way the boys in blue and white battled all game long. Even deep into extra time as legs were giving out, United players were flying into tackles and pushing the counter-attack, hoping for that moment of magic.
RWB Adria were a quality side and for much of the match, especially the first half, and appeared to be the most likely winners. Even after some halftime adjustments evened out the match and provided United with a few scoring chances, Adria still had the better opportunities and their size up front made them a constant threat on set pieces.
Meanwhile, Rudland’s tactical adjustments were on-point all game long. Switching Dunn to left back and Gomes to right back in the first half slowed what had been a threatening Adria attack down United’s left, and each of Rudland’s substitutes had a major impact on the game. Cholo Petit entered and immediately energized the attack in the 2nd half, as did Liam Madden. Yves Nzwanga, the final substitute, entered the game in extra-time, and contributed the winning penalty.
For all the drama of the first 120 minutes, the real drama came in the penalty shootout to decide the match. With the Sons of Ransom abandoning their usual section for the shootout in favor of being closer to the action, RWB Adria’s Antonio Aguilar stepped up to take the first penalty and was stonewalled by United keeper Quinn McAnaney, setting the tone for the rest of the shootout. Cholo Petit buried the first attempt for United and the crowd erupted as he pointed to the Lansing United crest on his jersey. It was his debut in a competitive match for United, but the bond was already there. When Yves Nzwanga put home the final penalty to clinch the win and the players rushed to the corner to join the Sons of Ransom in celebration, it was clear how much the moment meant to players and supporters alike.
For an NPSL club like Lansing United, roster continuity is often a struggle as the majority of the team is made up of college players. With many new faces in 2015, there was no guarantee that the bond between supporters and players would be the same as in 2014. Wednesday’s post game celebrations proved that the bond remains, as players joined supporters in jubilant celebration after a great result.
With United advancing, dreams of glory remain alive. United will host USL side Louisville City FC in Lansing on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.
OTF contributor Eric J. Walcott can be found on Twitter at @ericwalcott.