Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

“Women are just smarter: they plan more for the future than the men. Every USL [League] Two player, I think, just thinks they’re going pro. Where every woman is like, ‘Well, I’d like to go pro — but if I don’t, I need to make sure I have an internship.’ and I’m like ‘How smart is that!’ . . . We have three players that would be starters that are gone this weekend due to internships.” — Chicago City SC head coach Chad Swieca

June 10, 2022

This Friday at 7 PM and Sunday at 12 PM, Minnesota Aurora FC will play host to Chicago City SC. Minnesota Aurora FC remain undefeated. After drawing their home opener 1-1 with Green Bay Glory, they tore through Missouri, west to east.

MN Aurora rose above Kaw Valley 2-0 then out-clawed the St. Louis Lions 3-2, despite a Lions’ roar of a free kick at the end.

Having seen the three Aurora matches but only one Chicago City match, I caught up with head coach Chad Swieca (SWEE-kuh) to help fill in some gaps. Chicago City SC had their first game delayed due to weather.

They won 2-1 at St. Louis Lions. On being down 1-0 at half time, Coach Swieca told this story:

“We definitely started on our heels, getting off the bus, four hour — five hour drive. And you know, [St. Louis] were able to get a goal at minute 15. But then probably at minute 20, we really started to kind of click and realize like, ‘Hey, we’re playing. We’re fine. We’re in this.’ And we come off at halftime and all the players are like — I can just tell everyone’s tense everyone’s amped up. And I remember asking, “Ladies, like is everyone pretty tense right now?’ and I just remember my captain [Kennedy Burschel] just being like, ‘Yeah, because we should be winning!’

“This is actually the first time I’ve ever done this in a halftime speech, but I literally told all of the players. I said, ‘Alright, everybody lay down and close your eyes.’ And I said, ‘Take three deep breaths and as you do it, think about, you know, what’s the most fun thing about soccer you enjoy?’ and like a meditation almost in the middle of a soccer game. Yeah and ultimately, you know, everybody — you know? we sat there for like a minute, just in quiet.

“And I looked at everyone I was like, ‘Alright, is everyone ready to go win this game now?’ And everybody was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ And, you know, we we came on and honestly, I think we hit the post once or twice in the first like five minutes of the second half. And then, you know, minute 60 or whatever, Amanda [Cassidy] — you know, it was actually a beautiful sequence between the players. And Amanda got in and had a very nice finish. And you know? Tie game 1-to-1 and then in the 90th, Foster [Ignoffo] had a good finish that ‘megged the goalie. And 2-to-1 and that’s all she wrote.”

In Chicago City’s most recent game at Green Bay Glory, they scored late, but with a different result. They lost 2-3 with a potential early goal called off for goalkeeper interference. [More on this later]

MN Aurora Starting XI vs St. Louis Lions, credit: MN Aurora
back row: Symonds, Langdok, Fuller, Cha, Eli Rapp, Preston
front row: Hansen, Hopeau, Kaufusi, Zbiljic, Nguyen

Chicago City head coach Chad Swieca

As a player, Swieca played as a center back in Australia, Sweden, and Liberia. My favorite story was about the ups and downs of playing for three different Australian clubs.

“So this was a team there called Mount Gravatt Hawks [5th division]. This is like basically, you know, probably a step above like Metro League in Illinois. It’s pretty similar to like UPSL. And so I’m with them and my first game is the FSA cup which is the same as US Open Cup.

“And we’re playing currently the best team in NPL [2nd division] at the time, which was Western Pride. And I can’t remember the kid’s name, but the kid that was on that team had like an insane — he had like five or six goals in the first two games of the season and was already getting like scouted by A-League clubs. They won their first two games by like, seven or eight goals. And that’s an NPL [team] and showing really well. “

“So we play on, and we’re all like, ‘Okay, well, let’s try not to get crushed.’ And I finally get to play, and I get a start. And we end up only losing 2-1. And we took them all the way to like the 85th minute or something before they got their second goal on us. So basically from that point then, I started getting some emails from some NPL clubs because they saw that game. Ultimately, I ended up making a transfer like two games after that, to Redlands [United, 2nd division].”

A bit later he added, “So yeah, that was Redlands. It was a good time…. I didn’t end up re-signing just because, you know, I basically was told by some American people that, ‘Hey, you need to try and make a move down to Melbourne,’ which, hindsight 20-20, wasn’t the right move. But you live and learn, right? So I moved down to Melbourne. And then they got me on like a — it was a third or fourth tier team again. But the one thing that was nice about Melbourne is they paid way better down
there. I basically dropped a league, but then, like my pay like tripled.”

While Chad Swieca was born in Aurora, IL, his Chicago City players will play against a NOT-Illinois Aurora twice this weekend. How do these two teams stack up? Alliteratively articulating, I ask you to allocate some attic area for asinine analogies.

Target vs Sears

Target retail stores started in 1963, but the Dayton’s corporation goes back to Goodfellow Dry Goods in 1902. However, Sears goes back even before that. Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuch founded Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 1892.

This is Minnesota Aurora’s first year. Chicago City SC women’s team is in its fourth year, having played three years in the WPSL. City head coach Chad Swieca explained some players returned from last year and some are new this year, which is why he chose Kennedy Berschel as captain. “She was a player that was on the team last year, and I thought she was a good captain choice because she really bridges the gap from last year to this year. And she’s just a very vocal player. So she does a good job of, you know, kind of making everybody feel inclusive and everything.”


Jucy Lucy vs Chicago Dog

A Jucy Lucy’s key feature is the melted-cheese center. One of MN Aurora’s strengths is its central core. GK Sarah Fuller provides height and athleticism between the sticks. Center backs Kelsey Kaufusi and Rachel Preston disrupt opposing attackers. The center midfielders Addy Symonds and Morgan Stone help transition on offense and defense. Attacking midfielder Sangmin Cha and forward Maya Hansen display strong technical ability on the ball. This center is anything but gooey soft, but if you underestimate it, Aurora’s core will burn you.

credit: Arnold Gatilao, used under creative commons

The Chicago Dog is known for its variety of ingredients. Goalkeeper Katherine Montgomery is junior at Missouri State. Like the poppy seed bun, Montgomery will organize and support the team at its base. Coach Swieca beamed, “She’s my second captain: Katie Montgomery. There’s being a good communicator, and then there’s being Katie Montgomery.” Swieca explained, “When I yelled as a center back, I felt like I had two different tones, like I would have the tone of like [calm] “This is where everyone should be: this and this’ and then there was [urgent] ‘hey, we need to pick this up, and we need to go!’ And like Katie basically combines those two, where as every time she’s making a communication point, it’s that we’re doing it and we’re going. So I really love that about her because she is like proper field general through and through.”

Chad added, “I also think Angilina Galo, my center back . . . — she only finished her freshman year, and . . . she’s doing a great job, you know, on that back line and being a leader of the back line and communicating and stopping a lot of times the other team’s best players.” This makes me think of raw but strong, as in chopped raw onions.

In the Green Bay game, Chicago City completed some bright “sweet pickle relish” passes through the midfield. Midfielder Amanda Cassidy (2 goals on the season) and Forward Foster Ignoffo (1 goal on the season) like to pickle spear down the center of the pitch. Chicago City have played with physicality and the intensity of spicy sport peppers.

With the Chicago Dog’s various ingredients comes a variety of flavors. In their game at Green Bay, Chicago City attacked through a variety of channels and employed different presses for different situations, especially when the ball is on along the sideline.


IDS Center vs Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

Both MN Aurora and Chicago City like to play out the back, stringing passes together from the backline to the midfield. Chicago like the taller Willis Tower seem to go over the top more frequently trying to hit their front four directly. The Willis Tower is also known for it’s 9 tube construction; iconic are the four shorter tubes on the corners and a rising center column. Chicago City likes dribbling to that end line to create corner kicks. Look for them to use any height they have in the center, rising up to balls swung into the box. Against Green Bay, Chicago would have scored an Olimpico had the referee not waived it off due to goalkeeper interference.

IDS Center, credit: Hephaestos, used under creative commons

While the Willis Tower has a boxy square look, The IDS Center has a diagonal appearance created by a zig-zag of walls and windows. MN Aurora like to find those diagonal balls out wide to their fullbacks Eli Rapp and Makenzie Langdock. Their wings can diagonally play to the middle, Cha and Hansen can zig-zag dribble or pass through tight spaces.

Light Rail vs The “L”

Coming off the L(oss) at Green Bay, Coach Swieca said, “My biggest takeaway was I don’t like travelling on the day of the game anymore.” He added, “Sometimes you know — you just know when they walk off the bus, and you look at them, and . . . everybody looks asleep. . . . I was proud of them for, you know, coming back, and it being a 3-2 game. But at the end of the day . . . it very well could have been a win for us.” Coach Swieca can sleep well knowing he and the players arrived a day early to get a full-night’s rest.

TCO Stadium, MN Aurora Home Opener, credit: MN Aurora

How will Chicago City’s deal with MN Aurora’s light-rail speed of Minnesota’s front four on attack with plenty of assistance by Rapid Bus Transit in the full backs? Which team team will stay on track? Who will come off the rails? Come on out to TCO Stadium this Friday and Sunday and find out.

By Matthew Johnson

Matthew "MJ" Johnson is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. In 2007, he discovered UEFA Champions League. His complex spreadsheets went from college football bowl season to European club soccer, and his fandom soon followed. In 2011, a friend Wes made the mistake of inviting him to an NSC Minnesota Stars game, where he fell in love with local soccer. Matthew co-hosts The Daves I Know podcast and occasionally guest hosts the MN Fútbol Show. When not playing broomball or watching soccer, he repairs bicycles and sharpens knives for money but fuses cuisines for fun. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mjmattsui

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