Forward Madison FC looked at its friendly against the Bundesliga's Hertha Berlin on Friday as a showcase.
Players had a chance to make a good impression on their guests, and the team was in the spotlight for what was believed to be the first international pro soccer match in the 94-year history of Breese Stevens Field.
A 4-0 loss to the German first-division team ultimately matched expectations in terms of the score line, but Flamingos coach Daryl Shore left satisfied.
"I would say that we held a good account of ourselves," Shore said. "And it was a fun evening, I think, for everybody."
Forward Madison FC was able to schedule touring German team Hertha Berlin despite not having a large stadium or wildly inflated ticket prices compared to regular-season games.
First-half goals by Javairô Dilrosun and Fabian Lustenberger sent Hertha Berlin on its way against the Madison third-division team.
The game was played in front of an announced sellout crowd of 4,731, the largest for the first-year Madison team.
"We've never played in such a small stadium like this, but the atmosphere was great," said Serbian international Marko Grujic, who scored a second-half goal for Hertha Berlin. "The fans came to see the good football that we showed. For us, it's important that we won, also. But these people that came to the game, I think they really enjoyed it."
The contagious energy was coming from jam-packed bleachers where members of Forward Madison's fan groups spend much of the match.
Playing its seventh game in 21 days and looking ahead to Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup third-round game at Saint Louis FC, Forward Madison supplemented its bench Friday. Two players came from the amateur USL League Two Green Bay Voyageurs — George Morris and Dani Morillo — and another was a guest player, Alex Glavas.
The Flamingos are emphasizing the U.S. Open Cup, in which they're the last USL League One team remaining with a chance at a fourth-round game against an MLS team.
"The guys were excited," Shore said. "A lot of them didn't want to come out. A lot of them wanted to keep playing. But we had to be smart about minutes. I think all of our guys got exactly what they needed out of it."
Forward Madison withstood 25 minutes of pressure before Dilrosun put Hertha Berlin ahead with a well-placed, left-footed shot that curled inside the left post.
Dilrosun set up Lustenberger in the first minute of first-half stoppage time to make it 2-0. Forward Madison goalkeeper Ryan Coulter made the initial save on Lustenberger but couldn't get to the rebound.
Substitute Davie Selke scored from the penalty spot in the 58th minute after Forward Madison's Ally Hamis Ng'anzi took down Maximilian Mittelstädt in the area.
Grujic made it 4-0 in the 80th minute with a 20-yard blast into the side netting.
Before their friendly against Forward Madison FC on Friday, Hertha Berlin trained at the University of Wisconsin's McClain Center. Paul Keuter…
Hertha's Berlin Tears Down Walls Tour is celebrating the upcoming 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The team arrived in Minneapolis on Monday and defeated Minnesota United 1-0 on Wednesday.
It was due to depart for Chicago after Friday's game and also has a stop in Southern California next week.
"The friendliness of Midwesterners, arriving here and feeling so warm welcomed in Minneapolis as well as in Madison," said Paul Keuter, a member of the Hertha Berlin board. "Yesterday, we got a tour through the Capitol. The people and how they reacted to us, that's awesome. We're trying to give that back in the best of Berlin ways."
Valentino Lazaro, a Hertha Berlin midfielder, talked about the team's stay in Madison after training Friday morning at the University of Wisco…
Hertha Berlin practiced Friday morning at the University of Wisconsin's indoor McClain Center after rain got in the way of plans to train at Camp Randall Stadium.
Austrian international Valentino Lazaro, a Hertha Berlin midfielder, said the tour was a good time for players to refresh their heads after a long Bundesliga season that ended last weekend.
He also saw the marketing component for the team in a country where exposure to European soccer has helped raise the game's profile.
Hertha Berlin midfielder Mathew Leckie weighs in on being a bit of a Green Bay Packers fan and experiencing Game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Confer…
"I'm excited to see what's going to come in the next few years," Lazaro said. "Even in Europe, you can see already that something is about to build (in the U.S.). But you never know how long it's going to take.
"To me, personally, football is the greatest sport in the world. It's only right for the sport to have a big place in the United States as well."
Hertha Berlin 2 2 — 4
Forward Madison FC 0 0 — 0
First half: HB — Dilrosun, 25:00; Lustenberger (Dilrosun), 45:00+1.
Second half: HB — Selke, penalty, 58:00; Grujic, 80:00.
Saves: HB (Smarsch) 4, FM (Coulter 4, Barnes 2) 6.
Shots-on goal: HB 16-10, FM 7-4. Att. — 4,731.
Hertha Berlin — Dennis Smarsch; Peter Pekarik (Florian Baak 69:00), Niklas Stark, Maximilian Mittelstädt, Jordan Torunarigha; Per Skjelbred (Davie Selke 46:00), Salomon Kalou (Marvin Plattenhardt 46:00), Javairô Dilrosun, Fabian Lustenberger (Marko Grujic 46:00), Maurice Covic (Valentino Lazaro 69:00); Pascal Kopke.
Forward Madison FC — Ryan Coulter (Brandon Barnes 46:00); Carl Schneider (Jiro Barriga Toyama 46:00), Connor Tobin (Shaun Russell 34:00), Eric Leonard, Christian Díaz (Alex Glavas 46:00); Ally Hamis Ng'anzi, Josiel Núñez (Brandon Eaton 46:00), Vital Nizigiyimana (JC Banks 72:00); Brian Bement, Zaire Bartley (George Morris 72:00), Paulo Júnior (Dani Morillo 63:00).