There were board-crashing collisions, confrontational chest-bumping, a head-butt, an ejection and Winnipeg Alliance football club captain Jordan Goetting scoring a short-handed goal on his birthday.
It was a great day at Gateway Recreation Centre for the Winnipeg Alliance, an indoor soccer team trying to make a go of it in Winnipeg's busy sports community and find a niche for itself in hearts of soccer fans.
About 350 fans who crowded into the seats and mezzanine area of Gateway's indoor soccer field were treated to a pair of wins, including a 2-1 overtime win in the first match of a doubleheader against Detroit Waza of the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL). In the second game, the Alliance defeated Detroit 9-5.
The results ended the 2010-2011 season for the Alliance, which played a 12-game schedule against teams from the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League (CMISL) and PASL teams.
"This was just great for our team, to win in front of our fans who have supported us this season and to win like this," said Goetting, who celebrated his 34th birthday by putting the Alliance on the scoreboard with 51.2 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the first game, the Detroit side was down 1-0 heading into the fourth quarter but were far from finished. While Winnipeg was serving a two-minute penalty for a sixth foul, Detroit pulled its goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage in the final minute. With just three seconds left, Waza player/owner Dominic Scicluna scored the tying goal on a tricky free kick near the top of the box.
The Waza were ecstatic. It lasted only halfway into overtime. At 5:05 of the OT frame, Winnipeg defender Ivan Garcia booted a hard, sharp-angle shot from the right corner. The Waza 'keeper got a small piece of it but there was too much momentum and it rolled in for the Alliance victory.
Tony Pesce, the majority owner of the Alliance, said plans are in place to bring the team back for his third year as owner.
"I love the indoor game, it's fast-paced, the ball stays in play, it's physical, it's just pure entertainment," said Pesce, whose team budget is about $70,000. While expenses are covered, players do not get paid to play or they would lose their amateur status and be unable to play locally in the summer.
"I would love to see the Alliance grow to become a credible club with the best product we can offer to fans. The biggest challenge right now is the league itself. Two teams went bankrupt last year so we need some stability there."
The physical aspect of the indoor game -- and the six-on-six configuration -- had fans from the two adjoining hockey ice rinks commenting on how it looked much like hockey.
"It's as fast-paced as hockey and usually it's a pretty high-scoring game," Goetting said.
"In all honesty, I still play soccer for the Winnipeg Alliance because I know I'm never going to play for Liverpool or Manchester United but this is the highest level of soccer here in Winnipeg," Goetting said.
"I want to see it succeed. The Winnipeg Fury (the now-defunct outdoor professional team) was gone by the time I was old enough to play," said Goetting, the father of three-year-old son Jared. "I have a young son now so for him and other young kids, this is something to aspire to and work towards. Now we have soccer at U of W and this, and without this, kids won't stay here to play."
Players in the indoor game exhibited as much toughness as they did skill. Alliance midfielder James MacLean, the recipient of the head butt in the early fourth quarter, simply clicked his nose back into place and refused to get drawn into further shenanigans.
Detroit defender Ryan Mallord, an entertaining player whose sole purpose on the turf appeared to be to aggravate his opposition, was sent off at 5:58 of the fourth quarter for delivering the head butt.
Scoring for Winnipeg in the second game was Chris Musto with three, Christian Cheater with two and singles from Goetting, Garcia, McLean and Tom Foderaro.
Goetting has played five seasons with the Alliance for three different owners.
"This is the most successful season we've ever had, not just with wins but with stability of ownership and players who started to buy into what we're trying to do here," Goetting said. "We've lost a few guys to injury along the way but we've had pretty much the same guys all year. Last year we had some superstars but this year, we don't have any. Everyone plays for each other and it makes a big difference."
Alliance indoor soccer
-- the basics
-- six players per side on the field at once -- one goalkeeper and five players
-- four 10-minute quarters
-- if tied, a 10-minute golden goal (sudden-death) overtime period follows
-- a two-minute penalty is assessed to teams after each sixth foul per quarter.
-- no offsides
-- players change on the fly
-- blue cards, which require a player to serve a two-minute penalty, are issued for infractions like intentional boarding
-- goalkeeper can be pulled for an extra attacker