The delivery and the finish were so well done you’d think it had happened before.
It had. Plenty of times, the way Nick Markanich described his second-half goal for Forward Madison FC in a 2-1 friendly victory Tuesday night over Leones Negros of Mexico.
Twins have a way of teaming up like that.
Markanich’s brother, Anthony, served up a cross into the right side of the box that Nick headed to the back post, giving the Flamingos a 2-1 lead in the 58th minute.
“My brother and I, we’ve always practiced this,” Nick Markanich said. “I had to move for it, but I knew exactly where it was going to go. It was a perfect ball.”
The Markanich brothers will be sophomores at Northern Illinois in the fall after a summer playing for the amateur Green Bay Voyageurs with two guest appearances with Forward Madison. They have an extra page for their soccer resumes after a big moment in front of an announced crowd of 4,802 at Breese Stevens Field.
“These two kids, they have the potential to be really special,” Forward Madison coach Daryl Shore said. “I don’t know if I want to say that in public because we kind of want to keep it under the radar.”
In an indication that the game wasn’t as friendly as expected, there were more yellow cards dished out (seven) than shots on target (six), not to mention a 90th-minute red card to Leones Negros’ Marvin Ceballos.
The evening was a celebration of Madison’s Latino community, with announcements made in both Spanish and English and a Ballet Folklorico halftime performance.
Fans arrived at Breese Stevens Field wearing all kinds of jerseys of Mexican teams, but Hilda and Justin Brunner sported matching Leones Negros kits.
Hilda Brunner grew up a fan of the team in Guadalajara, Mexico, and she and her husband, now Monroe residents, saw them play in Mexico three years ago.
“I didn’t think they would come to Madison to play,” Hilda Brunner said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Leones Negros, officially Club Leones Negros de la Universidad de Guadalajara, plays in Ascenso MX, Mexico’s second division.
The game originally scheduled for Tuesday against first-division team Querétaro FC was nixed because of a scheduling issue with the Mexican side. It would have been the third Forward Madison exhibition against a top-flight opponent in the team’s inaugural season; it also hosted Germany’s Hertha Berlin and Minnesota United of Major League Soccer.
But Querétaro’s replacement had the distinction of bringing a Mexican star to Madison in Omar Bravo, a retired player who’s with Leones Negros studying to be a coach but also occasionally putting on the boots.
Bravo, 39, played in both the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup for Mexico. His biggest contribution, however, was in the domestic league, where he recorded a club-record 132 goals in 382 games for Chivas de Guadalajara.
Recent reports have said Bravo is considering a full-time return to playing status. He played about 10 minutes of a friendly on Saturday and entered to a loud welcome in the 61st minute Tuesday.
Jorlian Sánchez put Leones Negros ahead in the 37th minute, but Brian Bement equalized for Forward Madison just before halftime.
Forward Madison’s first two big-time friendlies had to be shoehorned into busy times on the schedule. The game against Leones Negros, meanwhile, came before a 10-day break before the next USL League One match against Orlando City B on July 27 at Breese Stevens.
Shore brought in a few new faces to go along with some lineup regulars on Tuesday. Green Bay Voyageurs player Matteo Kidd joined Josiel Núñez and Vital Nizigiyimana in the starting midfield, with other new players taking a spot after halftime.
“It’s a big night for the city of Madison to have a top club from Mexico here in Madison at our stadium,” Núñez said Monday through a translator. “All the players are extremely excited and have a great sense of honor and pride to be able to play a big club from Guadalajara.”
Forward Madison is eighth in 10-team USL League One just past the season’s halfway point, five points out of the top four and a playoff spot. One of the ways it has led the league — besides an average attendance of 4,089 — is in bringing friendlies to its home fans.
“Hopefully tonight, some fans that came out that don’t normally come out have now seen what this is about, and the quality that we put on the field,” Shore said.
Forward Madison FC;1;1;—;2
First half: LN — Sánchez, 37th minute; FM — Bement, 45th.
Second half: FM — N. Markanich (A. Markanich), 58th.
Saves: LN (F. López 0, Parra 1) 1, FM (St. Clair 2, Sylvestre 0) 2.
Shots-on goal: LN 10-3, FM 10-3. Corner kicks: LN 3 FM 3.
Yellow cards: Russell, FM, 7th; Ortiz, LN, 28th; Mora, LN, 30th; Núñez, FM, 44th; Télles, LN, 48th; C. Lopez, LN, 54th; Kevin Lomeli, LN, 61st. Red card: Ceballos, LN, 90th. Att. — 4,802.
Leones Negros — Felipe López (Diego Parra, 46th); Carlos Baltazar (Andres Ramirez, 88th), Andres Ramirez (Emanuel Ayala, 46th), Arturo Ortiz (Christian Lopez, 46th), Francisco Rabago (Paul Bellon, 46th); Romario Hernández (Kevin Lomeli, 46th), Jésus Vázquez (Beline Toledo, 46th), Marvin Ceballos, Adrián Villalobos (Alan Murillo, 46th); Jorlian Sánchez (Omar Bravo, 61st), Jorge Mora (Luis Télles, 46th).
Forward Madison FC — Dayne St. Clair (Brian Sylvestre, 46th); Jiro Barriga Toyama (Louis Bennett, 46th), Shaun Russell (Eric Leonard, 46th; Zack Klancnik, 76th), Connor Tobin (Jasper Kirsten, 46th), Christian Díaz (Carl Schneider, 46th); Vital Nizigiyimana (Alex Welch, 46th); Josiel Núñez (JC Banks, 46th), Matteo Kidd (Anthony Markanich, 46th); Danny Tenorio (Don Smart, 46th), Brian Bement (Paulo Júnior, 46th), Zaire Bartley (Nick Markanich, 46th).