Cal United Strikers v Michigan Stars Game Recap

Shane Kaemerle makes his professional debut
Published Mar 1, 2020

Cal United Strikers v Michigan Stars FC Game Recap

Cal United Strikers overcome physical NISA newcomers Michigan Stars FC to grab a 1-0 victory in its spring season opener

February 29, 2020

By Dan Minkoff

For Cal United Strikers FC 

IRVINE, California – Cal United Strikers coach Don Ebert had no idea what to expect from league newcomers Michigan Stars FC in his side’s home opener of the National Independent Soccer Association spring season. As the defending 2019 West Coast NISA champion, Ebert knows they will have a target on their back.

Ebert and the rest of Cal United quickly found out. Michigan came out determined to play physical and racked up seven fouls and two yellow cards in a choppy, scoreless first half. Cal United stuck to its game plan, produced better movement off the ball in the second half, and grabbed a deserved goal to grind out a 1-0 victory in front of an impressive crowd of 2,258 at Orange County Great Park Championship Stadium.

The game also marked the professional debut of 15-year-old Dana Point, California local Shane Kaemerle. Kaemerle, who previously played for Strikers FC Irvine’s U.S. Soccer Development Academy, entered the game in the 63rd minute as a substitute for Kevin Jeon, who scored the game’s only goal four minutes earlier. Ebert wanted to get Kaemerle in the game as soon as he could.

“I said to him that I didn't want him to wait,” Ebert explained after the game. “With all the nerves, I said, ‘I'm going to put you right in, first game, and the sooner you get that over, that's when you can start taking the next steps.’ He is a very talented player who is nervous beyond nerves and you can see what he brings. He’s gonna be great.”

Kaemerle got his “welcome to the pros” moment in the 82nd minute when Stars defender Cameron Jon Schneider knocked him to the ground with a hard foul from behind. Kaemerle got right up and Schneider picked up Michigan’s third yellow card.

“I was expecting some contact on that one, but not that hard,” Kaemerle said. “[Schneider] came up to me after the game and said he had to welcome me to the league.”

Kaemerle said he was nervous before the game, but felt good once he stepped on the field. He started out on the left wing and at times occupied the center forward position, but didn’t really get into the flow until late. At one point, around the 88th minute, he had the ball deep in the corner to the right of Michigan’s goal. Kaemerle deftly dribbled out of trouble and found teammate Gustavo Villalobos so that Cal United could recycle the ball and retain possession.

“It was much different, much quicker, much more physical than a normal academy game,” Kaemerle said. “It was definitely a step up.”

The Stars are new to NISA and previously played in the National Premier Soccer League. This is their first season as a professional club and gave Cal United all it could handle. Cal United found it difficult to break down a defense that sometimes had six players across the back line. In the 59th minute, however, after a nice spell of possession for Cal United, defender Michael Bryant picked up the ball in the middle of the field and hammered a 30-yard shot at the Stars goal. Goalkeeper Arshia Aghababazadeh could only parry the ball away and Jeon was first to react and poked in the rebound.

“We knew they were going to be a physical, defensive-minded team, said defender and Cal United team captain Chris Klute. “We knew that was going to be their thing. They’re new and for most teams in a new league, they sit back to see how it plays out.”

Despite enjoying the majority of possession, Cal United didn’t muster many goal-scoring chances in the first half. Christian Thierjung, who was the NISA leading goal scorer in the fall season, hit the crossbar  and Cal United only had two shots on goal before halftime. Michigan defender Joseph Aidoo almost scored with a header off a corner kick, but his shot was cleared off the line by Xavier Ikaika Fuerte and the teams went into the locker rooms tied, 0-0.

Thierjung put the ball in the net in the 54th minute, but was flagged offside. After that, Michigan sat deeper and deeper while Cal United dominated possession and held off the Stars’ few counterattacks.

“I thought we played really well,” Ebert said. “That was a very good performance from the opening whistle to the final whistle. We didn't have a lot of highs and lows. You're playing a very physical team, so it ain’t gonna be pretty when they're out there to bunker in and put 10 guys behind the ball. It's not easy. I thought we did very well.”

Cal United Strikers’ next game will be at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 vs. 1904 FC at Lincoln High School in San Diego. Cal United’s next home game will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 vs 1904 FC. Click here for tickets.


Cal United Strikers 1, Michigan Stars FC 0

Goal: Cal United Strikers – Kevin Jeon, 59th minute.

Cal United Strikers (4-4-2): Steven Barrera; Michael Bryant, Xavier Ikaika Fuerte (Gonzalo Salguero 72nd), Kevin Garcia-Lopez, Chris Klute; Duncan Capriotti (Evan Waldrep 75th), Kevin Jeon (Shane Kaemerle 63rd), Shinya Kadono, Alec Sundly; Christian Thierjung (Omar Nuno 78th), Gustavo Villalobos.

Michigan Stars FC (5-3-2): Arshia Aghababazadeh; Joseph Aidoo, Gonnie Ben-Tal, Andres Chalbaud, Cameron Jon Schneider, Patrick Sullivan; Steven Juncaj, Zachary Reynolds (Zanin Mahic 64th), Nils  Valdmanis; Kyle Nuel, Travis Ward (Tekodah Lobsiger 77th).

Yellow cards: Michigan – Reynolds 7th, Sullivan 23rd, Schneider 82nd.

Referee: William Randy Hoffman.

Venue: Orange County Great Park Championship Stadium.

Weather: 59 Fahrenheit, calm.

Attendance: 2,258.

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