The Milwaukee Wave celebrate with the Newman Cup Sunday night after winning the MASL championship.
(Photo: Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Milwaukee Wave is the oldest continuously operating professional indoor soccer team in the United States, and has seen a lot of triumphant moments since kicking off operations in 1984.
The Wave added another highlight Sunday by claiming its seventh indoor championship with a 5-2 victory over the Monterrey Flash in the Major Arena Soccer League title game at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Before the match, the Wave honored its history by having some of the team’s all-time greats like former coach Keith Tozer and ex-scoring machine Michael King perform a honorary first kick.
Then Ian Bennett, Max Ferdinand, Marcio Leite and Josh Lemos went out and etched their own names in Wave lore by helping the team claim the Ron Newman Cup, its first championship since going back-to-back in 2011 and ’12.
Bennett and Ferdinand keyed the four-goal outburst in the third quarter that decided the game. Leite scored a goal and quarterbacked the defense, earning MVP honors in the title game. Lemos – the goalkeeper dubbed “The Wall” – made sure that Monterrey never made things interesting in the fourth.
"Milwaukee is a great sports town," said Wave coach Giuliano Oliviero, who also played for the franchise. "We looked in the crowd before the game started and knew it would be a special night.
"To do this at home and have the Wave legends supporting us and them being there behind the scenes. Just giving us little comments before the game and just boost our confidence and make us believe even more. Absolutely special."
The teams played to a 1-1 tie after the first two quarters. Leite scored in the second quarter after Monterrey keeper Rafael Dias fumbled the ball into the goal.
Leite and Lemos also helped thwart several scoring opportunities from the Flash. The Wave’s defense only allowed eight goals over its last four matches.
"I think the biggest difference-maker was that guys really bought in on getting back," Leite said. "Maybe scoring less points throughout the year, but really helping the team give up fewer goals so we can win a championship."
The Wave came out aggressive in the third quarter. Ferdinand gave Milwaukee the lead 1:49 into the second half, creating space with a nifty crossover and then firing a rocket with his left foot that sneaked just below the top bar.
That brought the home crowd into the match. Then the cheers reached a fever pitch when the Wave broke the game open by scoring three goals in stretch of 2:37.
Two of those goals came from the Wave’s dynamic offensive duo, with Ferdinand finding Bennett with some crafty assists. Andre Hayne scored the other goal in the Wave’s outburst.
Ferdinand and Bennett have a special chemistry.
"We don’t even have to communicate with talking," Bennett said. "He can just find me. Our body language … we know what’s going on.
"It’s kind of melodic, man. He just gets me. I get him. It’s just been fantastic playing with him."
Lemos made sure that the lead held up, only allowing a rocket goal from the Flash in the fourth quarter. He finished with 17 saves, several of them spectacular.
That improved defense helped get the Wave over the championship hump.
"We did what we needed to do after losing two years in a row," Lemos said. "We figured out what we were missing and what we were lacking and committed to that.
"And the outcome was making it to the finals and ultimately being champions."
With the Wave’s defense keeping Monterrey at bay, the home crowd just counted down the minutes in the final quarter before it could celebrate the championship.
Soon streamers were coming down from the roof and the Wave players were embracing each other to the strains of Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”
Bennett, who has played on three championship-winning Wave teams, cemented his place among the other franchise legends.
"We just wanted to make sure we were continuing their legacy," Bennett said. "And showing that Wave soccer is alive and well and we learned a lot from those guys.
"We thanked those guys and honored those guys. I hope we did them proud. I think we did."