Wave dominated regular season
Ryan Waldheger
May 14, 2005
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This is title time for Cleveland and Milwaukee. Only hours separate the Force and Wave from the kick-off of their 2005 MISL Championship Series Finals.

While the rest of the country can tune in to ESPN2 on Saturday night at 9 p.m. (EST) to catch all of the live end-to-end action, we caught a glimpse into the two camps as they made final preparations for the 2-game set, which will open on Saturday (May 14), at U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

Wednesday was a weight-training day for the 2004-05 MISL Regular Season Champion Milwaukee Wave. Practices were held on Thursday and Friday, and a kick-around is set for Saturday morning.

The weather wasn't delightful along the Western shores of Lake Michigan on Wednesday. In fact MISL MVP forward Greg Howes described it as "cold and rainy." But Howes had his day on Thursday when he received his second consecutive MISL MVP award at a press conference at "The Cell." After a media and photo session with MISL Commissioner Steve Ryan, and indoor soccer's all-time scoring leader and Cleveland soccer legend Hector Marinaro, Howes and the Wave continued preparations indoors the rest of the week, poised to bring home a fourth professional indoor soccer championship to their loyal supporters in Milwaukee.

In Cleveland, where the team flew out on Thursday, Wednesday was a pleasant day reaching the low 80s along the southern shores of Lake Erie. Head coach Omid Namazi conducted a morning practice at the team's training facility, and actually wrapped up a little early, as the team prepped for what players from both teams promise will be nothing short of - "a battle."

Here we'll look at the Championship Series Finals match-up, and check in with players from both teams as we approach the opening of the action on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Arena and on ESPN2.

Wave Gets The First Word

We'd be remiss not to start with Milwaukee. The Wave continued their dominance of the field this season, finishing with the best record in the League for sixth consecutive season. With their 24-15 record they edged the Force (23-16) for the no. 1 seed in the postseason by one game in the standings with a reloaded roster that quickly rounded into form. The team features a returning core group and a host of complementary players that deliver with precision for head coach Keith Tozer and his much-admired, and long-tested "system" of play.

"This is my eighth Final's appearance in ten years, and for us to be back in the Championship again is a reflection of our hard work this season," Milwaukee target Todd Dusosky said. "The fact that we have been in the Finals the last six straight years says a lot about our organization."

Dusosky is one of the mainstays within the Wave's framework. Along with players like Michael King, Lovelace Ackah, and Pat White, Dusosky has been around for much of the Wave's decade of success. Howes, reserve goalkeeper Dan Green, and Todd's brother, and currently injured star defender Troy Dusosky, have been around nearly as long. And Tozer and the rest of the front office have strategically added a number of other key pieces during this extended run.

There's stability on the field in Milwaukee. And Todd Dusosky's March 13 return from a January injury seems to have solidified this year's attack. Howes and Dusosky, who usually play on different lines, were paired together and equally evident on the carpet and in the stat sheets. Dusosky recorded five points (one goal, four assists) in his first game back, and finished the regular season with five multi-point games in his post-injury nine-game stint. For the year, Dusosky totaled 11 goals and 22 assists in just 19 games played (of a possible 39).

As for Howes, he followed up his 85-pont season in 2003-04, by posting 73 points this season while repeating as the MVP. Howes led the league in points (73), goals (41), and assists (32). The 28-year-old didn't start out especially strong, but he got things rolling with a 13-goal, seven-assist month in February, and continued to punish opposing goalkeepers the rest of the way.

Howes played in 36 of 39 games. In the 22 games in which Howes played and the Wave won, he totaled 60 points. In the 14 he played that the Wave lost, Howes totaled 13.

Moving beyond that formidable one-two punch, midfielders Marcelo Fontana and Angel Rivillo each scored 18 goals. Veteran forwards King, and Giuliano Oliviero each chipped in 17 goals. Midfielder Johnny Torres (13), Troy Dusosky (13), Matt Schmidt (12) and All-MISL defender Chris Morman (11) all reached double-digits in goals scored. Morman also led the team in blocks with 52.

"There's always the opportunity for an unsung hero to step in and come up with some big goals," Todd Dusosky said. "Now is the perfect opportunity for anyone to step up and have a big game. We've had guys do it all year long, it hasn't just been Greg and I. Guys like Giuliano, Matt Schmidt, all of our midfielders and defenders, have been doing it all year."

Against Cleveland however, Milwaukee's had some struggles. At 2-3, the Force is the only team the Wave had a losing record against during the regular season. Two of those losses have come at home. Matches have been close with three games going into overtime, and outcomes often decided by one team's successes and the other's failures on special teams. In other words, as Tozer has said, expect the restarts and power plays to be a key to this duel.

Proven defenders like Morman, Ackah, White, and Sinisa Alebic will be tested.

"We are preparing the same way we have all year, we can't sweat all the details that surround this game," Fontana said. "We have to play the game the way we know our team is capable of playing. Cleveland is a great team, but if we play together and compliment one another, I think we have a good opportunity to break down their defense."

"(Cleveland) Goalkeeper Jim Larkin has had some great games against us and the addition of Genoni Martinez to their already impressive defensive line has been a big part of their success. Now it's our job to come in and find ways to score."

Cleveland's camp

Where Larkin, hasn't had the same kind of season statistically that Milwaukee's All-MISL goalkeeper Nick Vorberg (22-10, 3.96 goals against average) has had, the Force 'keeper believes he's playing the best he has during his indoor career. A fourth-year player for the Force, Larkin has the longest tenure on the team excluding All-MISL forward John Ball, himself a veteran of 10 seasons in Cleveland.

But where Larkin has seen a revolving door of players and coaches in past seasons, he now sees a team that is playing together, playing for each other, playing for each other, and is finally reaping the benefits of the numerous roster moves. High-scoring defender Genoni Martinez, a two-time MISL Defender of the...
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