The Dayton Dutch Lions took a realistic approach to their international friendly against Wigan on Tuesday. They didn’t actually think they could beat a team that won one of the most famous trophies in soccer in May.
“We were all joking, saying if we beat Wigan, we’re technically one of the best eight teams in the world,” forward Brandon Swartzendruber said.
Wigan may have been relegated from the English Premier League to the second tier of English soccer after a disappointing season, but it made up for that with a stunning win over Manchester City in the FA Cup championship. It’s building on that momentum and preparing for the 2013-14 season with a tour of the United States that included a stop at Wertz Stadium in Piqua.
The Dutch Lions played competitive soccer for most of the first half, but were not a match for Wigan in the end. The Latics, who beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Saturday, pulled away for a 6-1 victory on Tuesday with two goals by Grant Holt and single goals by Marc-Antoine Fortune, James McCarthy, Nouha Dicko and Rakish Bingham.
Swartzendruber scored the only goal for Dayton on a header in the 48th minute.
“Man, we just ran everywhere,” Swartzendruber said. “These guys are a different class. They’re really well organized as a team. Every time someone has the ball for them, they always have options. It’s just a different level. I think we did our best. It was good to test ourselves at that level.”
Dutch Lions coach Patrick Bal just wanted his team to avoid injuries. His team played Sunday and plays two more games this week on Friday and Saturday. In the next 29 days, it has nine games on its United Soccer League schedule.
Everyone on the Dayton roster played Tuesday.
“The first half, we were competitive,” coach Patrick Bal said. “You could see they were faster on the ball, quicker with the pass and physically stronger than us. That’s the difference between a great team from England and a USL team. In the second half, we had players playing at different positions. Some guys who don’t play a lot came in and got some playing time. Nobody looked like they were connecting.”
Bal grew up following Manchester United, one of the most famous teams in the English Premier League. He knows just what Wigan accomplished in the FA Cup final.
“It’s a fairytale,” he said. “For Wigan, the FA Cup is the only trophy they can win. They’re not going to win the league because there are 38 games in the English Premier League.”