Cal United Strikers Defeat Michigan Stars FC
Cal United Strikers Shutout Michigan Stars FC in NISA Spring 2020 Home Opener. A real pipeline for players, Cal United’s newcomer, 15-year-old Shane Kaemerle enters the match in the second half, earning his first professional start.
It was a battle. A physical battle from the first whistle and when the final whistle blew, NISA‘s defending 2019 West Coast champions, California United Strikers FC emerged victoriously, defeating Michigan Stars FC 1-0.
“It was exciting and very entertaining football by both teams,” said Michael Collins, President of California United Strikers FC. “We were more in sync than Michigan Stars, but they are a very good team, very organized. I knew it was going to be a competitive game and I am happy Michigan is in NISA. It was a great start for both the league and Cal United Strikers.”
In soccer, possession is a priority that does not always convert to victory but with relentless determination and skill, Cal United not only controlled the ball for the majority of the match but scored a well-deserved goal against Michigan’s strong defense.
Michigan racked up seven fouls and two yellow cards — in the scoreless first half.
Cal United Strikers’ Kevin Jeon found the back of the net in the 59th minute, scoring the only goal of the night.
The fans jumped to their feet applauding the goal.
“It was not going to be a pretty game — Michigan Stars are a physical team,” said Don Ebert, Cal United Strikers Head Coach.
Honestly, I thought we played really good soccer for the whole game. I thought we were patient, skillful, and we were fast.”Don Ebert, Cal United Strikers Head Coach
George Juncaj, Michigan Stars’ Manager, who looks forward to the rematch, promising that his team will be ready when the Strikers visit Michigan, also agrees that it was a good game.
“We went to play California United Strikers — they are a good team,” said Juncaj. “We also played very well. We made a small mistake, we allowed the guy to shoot from outside the box. Our goalie did not clear it away. Rebound. We lost 1-0. But, in the end, it was a good game and a good experience. “
“It feels amazing to get the first win of the season,” said Christian Thierjung. “It was a tough battle. Michigan came out very strong and it took a while to break them down — we just had to have the belief that the goal was coming. We had a few chances in the first half, but the second half opened up — I am very happy for our team.”
NISA’s expansion team, the Michigan Stars previously played in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and this was their inaugural pro debut.
“We knew they were going to be a physical, defensive-minded team.”Chris Klute, Cal United’s Captain
The action-packed match never ebbed as the clock ran down. “The game was great,” said Cal United’s goalkeeper Steve Barrera who gave the defense credit for doing a great job and helping earn the shutout. “I really appreciate all the guys. They did more work than I did and that makes my job 100 times easier.”
The Star’s goalkeeper Arshia Aghababazadeh held up to the pro pressure from Thierjung, NISA’s leading goal scorer in the fall season. Thierjung shot on goal hit the crossbar in the first half and his goal in the 54th minute was flagged offside.
This match was the professional debut for Cal United’s 15-year-old Dana Point, California local Shane Kaemerle. Kaemerle, who previously played for Strikers FC Irvine’s U.S. Soccer Development Academy, came on as a substitute for Jeon in the 63rd minute.
“I had made the decision to put Shane Kaemerle in the first game,” said Ebert. “Waiting is miserable. I waited a month and a half to make the field and every game you are nervous. I just wanted to get that over for him.”
Now Shane is a pro, now he can start to grow and he did great.Don Ebert, Cal United Strikers Head Coach
“Kaemerle is very clear about what he wants. Not many 15 year-olds know what they are going to do next week — Shane is willing to go all in, he doesn’t want to go to college, he doesn’t want to play youth. He only wants to do this and go to Europe,” said Ebert. “I have not met kids like this and I have been with kids with 35 years of my life. He is talented and knows exactly what he wants and I want to help him.”
“Kaemerle has practiced with us and he plays much older than he is. He is very good off the ball — just needs to get that experience and practice at the next level,” said Cal United’s Duncan Capriotti.
Kaemerle got his “welcome to the pros” moment in the 82nd minute when Stars defender Cameron Jon Schneider knocked him to the ground by a hard, purposeful push from behind. Kaemerle got right up and Schneider was awarded Michigan’s third yellow card for the foul.
“I was expecting some contact but not that hard,” said Kaemerle who said he trained every day to prepare for this game. “Schneider came up to me after the match and said he had to welcome me to the league.” In response to what it was like playing in a pro game, Kaemerle said, “It was great — much more physical and quicker.”
The teenager, who is too young to even drive, has been welcomed by his teammates. “We all believe in him,” said Klute who acknowledged there is more pressure on the team as they are the defending champions.
“I am very proud of the team, and especially of Shane who did a great job in his first game,” said Bronwyn Capriotti, California United’s owner, and one of the few female owners of a professional sports team in America. “The guys played their game tonight — and it was a great win.”
A conservative estimate of 2,258 fans packed the Orange County Great Park Championship Stadium for NISA Spring 2020 Home Opener.
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.
NISA Spring Home Opener Cal United Strikers vs Michigan Stars FC Game Rosters:
Cal United Strikers FC (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).
Top Feature Image Photo Credit: Joe Walsh
Editor’s Note: Article updated 3/1/20 with a quote from George Juncaj.