Schiller Park - Machine squared off against Italy's CUSB La Fotta last night in an international friendly. One of Italy's most historic and successful teams, CUSB La Fotta has been traveling through New York and Chicago on their way to next weekend's US Open in Minneapolis.
Despite the jet lag and heavy legs, the Italians came out with lots of life early in Monday's scrimmage. With only one turn for either O-line and no breaks, Machine traded to 5-5 under a beautiful Schiller Park sunset. With high around breaks and strong wideside work, the Italians were looking tough to stop, even under high pressure from the Machine defense. A turn against a CUSB zone led to a break for the Italians, giving them a 6-5 lead. After a hold each, Machine scored quickly on O and then broke for half on a gentle away shot from Stephan to AJ, 8-7.
The second half saw even more pressure from Machine's changing D looks, and the stifling defense on handler resets led to two breaks and a 10-7 lead. A series of trades, featuring some big throws by CUSB's #90 and athletic grabs in the air by #97, brought it to 13-10. The CUSB zone, anchored by Davide Morri up front and Ironside's Kurt Gibson (picking up with CUSB for the evening) in back, slowed Machine's offense, but content to take as many throws as required, the Machine offense would find ways to punch it in each possession of the second half. With the dark advancing, two more CUSB turns led to two quick breaks, and Machine finished the game winning 15-10.
After the game, both teams came together to share praise for the supportive group of spectators on hand, and friendly feedback for each other. The post-game celebration moved to a nearby brewery where players were able to trade stories, jerseys, and lots of laughs. In a gesture of extreme kindness, Machine introduced the Italians to local Chicago delicacy: Malort (a disgusting spiced liquor). In a surprising turn of events, the Italians not only tolerated the Malort, but several found it to be enjoyable.
Photo highlights will be posted on www.huckpix.com (action shots above courtesy of Huck Pix).
One story of note, Machine rookie (and player with the most Italian sounding name of any attendee at the scrimmage), Vinny Ciaramitaro, was delayed getting to the scrimmage as the car in front of his bus flipped over in downtown Chicago while crossing a bridge, blowing out all of its windows. Both the bus driver and Vinny jumped out to help the family of four who were stuck inside as the gasoline leaked out. Everyone was safe, and Vinny was able to play in the scrimmage despite cuts to his hand.