By Shelly Watkins
Naeem Charles’ free kicks were spot on Sunday afternoon as he scored twice to lead the Stars to a 2-2 draw over the Milwaukee Torrent at home. The second of the two set pieces was a dramatic equalizer in the final seconds of the match.
The goals were nearly identical in distance and angle, both 20 yards out on the right flank, and practice made perfect for Charles in this game.
“I work on those free kicks all the time so I was pretty confident stepping up to it,” said Charles. “I just thought I need to get it on frame. The second kick was at an almost identical angle to the first one but a little closer so I had to get it more far-post and away from the goalie. When I made contact with, it I knew it was a good shot and I just hoped for the best.”
Charles’ goals were scored at 77:00 and 90:00.
Milwaukee’s two goals came in the first half. They jumped to an early lead just one minute into the match when defender Drew Ruggles launched a throw-in to the middle of the Stars’ box. Declan Rodriguez neatly headed the ball into the net, uncontested, like they’d done it a hundred times before.
Ruggles increased Milwaukee’s lead to 2-0 at 39:00 by striking a penalty kick past Stars goalkeeper Anthony Mwembia.
The Stars made six halftime changes in the 92-degree afternoon heat, a new tactic for head coach Morris Lupenec.
“I’ve never subbed six guys at half ever in my life but it worked out for us,” said Lupenec. “The six guys we brought in gave us the energy to keep pushing. Fortunately, we were able to tie the game late. Overall, we showed good character in not giving up and this gives us some hope continuing into the season.”
Mwembia had an outstanding game in goal, making several diving saves and key stops to keep spirits up.
“Anthony made some key saves for us in the second half to keep us in the game when we were down 2-0,” said Lupenec. “He’s always going to be steady for us.”
Milwaukee outshot the Stars 14-7.
The Michigan Stars (1-3-3) host Kalamazoo FC (1-3-1) at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 16 at Hurley Field in Berkley, MI.