Season 38 Round 36 / 60
Game Time 2024 Jun 16, 18:30 UTC(+00:00)

[USDN] Underdogs First Boxers Take the Super Cup!

Published by   US Divisions Network at 2023-09-14 13:24 (9 months ago)

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Since the inception of the US First Division in Season 23, First Boxers have become a staple of the American game, having won three of the last seven league titles, including a domestic treble in the inaugural season of the league. After dipping in form slightly over the last few seasons, the Boxers seem to be on the rise again, punching above their weight (pun intended) as they look to regain their spot on the top of the pyramid. Having finished 3rd in Season 28, manager Hanes Fruit saw his side back in the Super Cup. In the group stage, they came second, though only losing one match away to Achaikos in Greece, who ended up topping the group. In the round of 16, they dispatched Wenger's Tigers 3-1 on aggregate. The quarterfinals saw them paired against Australian outfit Melbourne Galaxy. After earning a valiant 1-0 at home, they saw out a 1-1 draw in Australia to send the Galaxy packing. By a twist of fate, their opponents in the semifinals were none other than fellow group-stage competitors Achaikos. The first leg at home ended in a grueling 0-0 draw, and set up a must-win away leg back in Greece. But after losing earlier in the season, the Boxers had learned their lesson, and even after getting outshot, they ran out 2-0 victors, sending them to the final. This was the furthest they had ever gotten in any continental competition to date, and they knew they could not let the opportunity slip. Cool Football Club, one of the most storied clubs in England, stood in their way of the trophy. And they made it difficult, scoring twice in the first forty minutes. But then Kasper subbed off two of his key players, and Hanes Fruit knew that this was their time to strike back. They scored two goals of their own just after the hour mark to bring things level, and that is where things would stand after the rest of a cagey ninety minutes. It was into extra time, and both teams were playing hard, looking for a winner. It would be Rafiq Freixa, Boxers legend, who would score the winner in the 97th minute to send the squad and the fans into delirium. The underdogs on paper, both in media predictions and on the team sheet being over 10 overall rating lower, had only gone and won the whole thing.

We sat down with Boxers manager Hanes Fruit to talk about the match, who immediately said that, "[he's] ecstatic right now. First trophy in a while."
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USDN: Firstly, on paper you were predicted to be relatively large underdogs. What or who do you think made the difference in the game, and was there anything you did differently than in previous matches?

HF: This season was more to get a feel for what works best for us, especially with the addition of Hussein Walker. Trying different formations to hope to compete against Black Dragons and Texas FC in the league and in international competitions. In the [Super Cup] final, we were putting up a good fight for the first 30 minutes, but conceding that goal early put us in a bind which led to the second goal. We got lucky with a lapse in judgment from Cool Football Club bringing on 2 youth defenders. Rafiq Freixa was not going to let that go.

(Hussein Walker signed for the club back in Season 28 for over 115 million, arriving stateside from German top-flight club Hertha Berlin. Though already 33 at the time, his experience proved vital.)

USDN: Where do you see the club going from here, both in the league and in continental competitions?

HF: Some of the guys are [aging] out. Lost key players in the midfield to retirement. It will be a struggle the next few seasons to be above the Super Cup spots and making a run in the knockouts. We're struggling with the National and League Cups. Hopefully, we can make some moves on the transfer market, and the youngsters can be ready soon.

USDN: Do you think this is the start of more US teams making it globally, and/or a greater recognition [and] respect for the league outside the US?

HF, laughing: If they didn't, they do now. With Black Dragons making the semi finals in the Champions League and us winning the Super Cup, everyone now knows the US is a threat and [is] continually growing. Hopefully this encourages everyone in the US to keep at it.
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Congratulations to Hanes Fruit and First Boxers on their historic win, and best of luck to all teams in the new season!

Note: We here at USDN strive for both accuracy and timeliness in our reporting. If you notice an error in our publication, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We will aim to correct our mistake as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and for your loyal readership.
Last updated by   US Divisions Network at 2023-09-14 13:24 (9 months ago)
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