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Club-Record Crowd Sees Forward Madison FC Take on Hertha Berlin

By Staff, 05/24/19, 11:24PM EDT


Bundesliga side takes victory in front of sellout attendance of 4,731 at Breese Stevens Field

Photo courtesy Justin Nuoffer / Forward Madison FC

MADISON, Wisc. – A sold-out, record crowd of 4,731 packed Breese Stevens Field Friday night to watch Forward Madison take on one of Germany’s major soccer clubs, Hertha Berlin. The Flamingos fell to a 4-0 defeat in the international friendly, but the game was a winner for the fans in attendance.

According to FMFC forward Brian Bement, the atmosphere at Breese was undeniable.

“These fans are the best in the league without a doubt, I’ve said it multiple times,” Bement said. “It’s not even close honestly. I mean, they just have so much energy. Obviously there were more people today which brings more energy, but I just love playing here. It’s an absolute blast and  they bring it every single day.”

Even the Hertha players, who played to an average attendance of nearly 50,000 this season, came out of the match with compliments for the Forward fans. Javairô Dilrosun, who scored the first goal of the game for this visitors, said the noise of the crowd impressed him.

“I think it was a good atmosphere, you [could] hear the crowd and it was nice for them,” he said. “We came in and gave them a game and I think it was a good game. I enjoyed it.”

For Forward Madison, the match was a chance to give minutes to all the players on its roster during a congested time in the season schedule. Vital Nizigiyimana, the only player to make the team from open tryouts, started for the first-ever time. Several players from USL League 2’s Green Bay Voyageurs, which shares ownership with FMFC, also filled in as guest players.

Hertha Berlin took a 2-0 lead in the first half, showing a convincing performance worthy of the team’s status in the German Bundesliga. The match began with steady control from Berlin through Per Skjelbred and and Maurice Covic, before Salomon Kalou took control from the left wing. The Ivorian’s play lead to multiple chances throughout the match, and resulted in the first goal as he set up Dilrosun for a perfect curler past a diving Ryan Coulter in the 25th minute.

Photo courtesy Justin Nuoffer / Forward Madison FC

The Flamingos were able to generate a few chances down the right side, as Christian Díaz came close to playing in Zaire Bartley, Brian Bement and Paulo Júnior. The closest Forward Madison came to scoring in the first half did, in fact, come through a Paulo chance, as he found himself in front of goal and forced a save from goalkeeper Thomas Smarsch.

Hertha’s second goal came courtesy of an opportunistic Fabian Lustenberger, who capitalized on a misplayed save from Ryan Coulter at the start of first-half stoppage time.

In the second half, substitutions for both sides resulted in a much more open game that created chances for both the ‘Mingos in and the Berliners. Hertha’s third goal came courtesy of a Davie Selke penalty, the former German youth national team player sending Brandon Barnes the wrong way after Maximilian Mittelstadt drew a foul in the box. Midfielder Marko Grujic scored the final goal, unleashing an unstoppable shot past Barnes to seal the result.

According to FMFC Head Coach Daryl Shore, his players loved having the chance to play against such high-level opposition.

“We told [our players], you have an opportunity to showcase yourselves [not just] as individuals, but also to showcase our club, our city and our fan base,” Shore said. “The guys were excited. A lot of them didn’t want to come out, a lot of them wanted to keep playing, but we had to be smart about minutes.”

The Flamingos will be back in action next Wednesday, playing perhaps their most important game of the year - away to Saint Louis FC in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, with the winner earning a game against a Major League Soccer team as its prize.

“We’re up for a challenge, and this is going to be one,” Shore said. “We’ll give them a couple of days to kind of decompress, and then we’re back in Monday.”

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