by Andriana Ruscitto

April 10, 2022, Muskegon, Michigan – The Major Arena Soccer League 2 (MASL 2) championship weekend was an exciting, yet heart-wrenching time for Crunch fans.

The Crunch kicked off the weekend vs. the homestanding Muskegon Risers on Friday, April 8, for the semi-final. The match had Risers and Crunch fans on the edge of their seats, as the teams went neck-and-neck until the fourth quarter, when Cleveland had a two-goal rally to defeat the Risers 6-5.

From the west coast, the San Diego Sockers 2 faced the Omaha Kings FC in the semi-final Friday night, which was also a close game. San Diego took the lead in overtime, beating the Kings 9-8.

Crunch and Sockers fans filled the Mercy Health Arena with excitement on Sunday, April 10, ready to watch their team’s play in the MASL 2 2022 National Championship.

Sunday’s matchup was nostalgic for Crunch fans and the organization, as the team embarked on a perfect season, finishing 12-0, and was fighting to defend their 2021 MASL 2 championship title.

San Diego was first to put one in the net just a couple minutes into the first quarter, but shortly after, Cleveland’s Ben Hryszko opened up scoring for the Crunch off a pass from Chris Cvecko, tying the game at 1-1. The Crunch took the lead with nearly five minutes left in the first after Mikey Derezic scored off a pass from Admir Suljevic. But San Diego scored another at the 2:20 mark, putting the score at 2-2 going into the second.

The second quarter went scoreless until San Diego put one in at the 8 minute mark to take the lead (3-2). With about four minutes left in the second, Derezic scored his second of the night to tie the game at 3-3. But with 13 seconds left in the quarter, San Diego found the back of the net to take the lead going into halftime (4-3).

The Crunch had a scoreless third quarter behind San Diego, who put two to take a 6-3 lead going into the fourth.

In the fourth quarter, Cleveland was first to put one on the board when Derezic scored off a pass from Kevin Blackwood to complete a hatrick, putting the score at 6-4. The quarter went scoreless until 45 seconds left in the match, when the Crunch put in its sixth man, which eventually led to a San Diego goal to top the Crunch 7-4. What started out as a strong matchup for both teams led to a heartbreaking loss for the Crunch.

“I am proud of all the players and coaches who contributed to the success of this team throughout the season. In the end, we fell short of reaching our goal, but I hope in time, everyone will look back and appreciate what we accomplished,” said Cleveland Crunch Head Coach Louis Kastelic. “Perfection is nearly impossible to reach, but we almost did it. I trust that the result of the championship game will fuel the guys during the off-season and the team will come back next season stronger and hungrier. Hats off to San Diego. They are a tremendous team. Special thanks to Matt Schmitt and the Muskegon Risers for a tremendous weekend. The Risers were great competitors and tremendous hosts. We look forward to many more trips and close games in the future. Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to all the fans. Your support is unmatched. I asked you all at the home opener to bring the noise and energy every night from near and far and you guys did every bit of that and more. Thank you so much and go Crunch!”