Wild finish lifts Cleveland Crunch to thrilling 7-5 win over Muskegon Risers

MUSKEGON, Michigan – The reality lived up to the hype Saturday as the Cleveland Crunch improved to stay undefeated in Major Arena Soccer League 2 play, riding a five-goal fourth quarter to a 7-5 win over the Muskegon Risers.

The game was part of the Great Lake Invitational, a tournament-style series of games, the champion of which will earn an automatic bid to the M2 championship weekend  July 17 and 18 at Hartman Arena in Wichita. The Wings and Amarillo Bombers – by virtue of their triumphs in the recently completed Heartland and Rocky Mountain Invitationals – have already qualified for the playoffs.

Saturday’s game at Mercy Health Arena featured three tie scores and the Crunch never led until taking a 5-4 lead on a goal by Sami Mutemwa at the 3:34 mark of a wild fourth quarter which saw the two teams combine for eight goals.

The final two minutes had fans standing and on the edge of their seats in Muskegon, as the Risers Colin Okeef scored with 66 seconds to play to forge a 5-5 tie. 

But the Crunch was far from done. Twelve seconds later, Kevin Blackwood scored what proved to be the game winner and 14 seconds after that, Mike Derezic got an insurance marker.

Okeef opened the scoring, and the hosts stretched their lead to 3-1 in the third quarter on scores by Brandon Dinsmore  and Miguel Flores, who added his second to start the fourth quarter barrage of goals to make it 4-2 after Cleveland’s Chris Cvecko cut the advantage to one. 

Cleveland’s Ryan Minnick – the Crunch’s Man of the Match with two goals and two assists – tied the game after David Jordan had again cut the Risers advantage to one to set the stage for the dramatic finish. Jordan’s goal began the late run which saw Cleveland score five of the game’s last six goals.

“They’re a good team, and I was nervous before the game,”  Risers Coach Ben Ritsema told Muskegon's localsportsjournal.com. “But I know I got good players and they work really hard. They play for each other and the fans. When they give good effort like that, you never know what can happen. We almost pulled it out, and we’ll have more nights where it goes our way.”  

Cleveland, which returned to play this spring after a 20 year hiatus from professional indoor soccer, improved to 3-0 on the season, and will be in action Sunday, April 11 when they hit the road again to take on the Chicago Mustangs. Muskegon will finish up its GLI games at home on April 24 when they host the Colorado Inferno. The Crunch and Mustangs will also play in Muskegon prior to that game in an invitational matchup as well. 

(Special thanks for Muskegon's localsportsjorunal.com for their coverage of the game!)