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Forward Madison announces Battle for Madison, slate of new signings

The Flamingos look to grow the game in Madison and gear up for a championship run.

Forward Paulo Júnior returns to the Flamingos’ front line in 2020.
Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen P

Forward Madison FC announced Wednesday that they will host UW-Madison Men’s Soccer team on April 15 in the ‘Battle for Madison.’

“Having our professional club and the city’s top college team get together shows that we’re committed to building a soccer culture in Madison,” Forward head coach Daryl Shore said. “This city has demonstrated that it’s passionate about the sport, so we’re giving them a night to enjoy top-level soccer at its best.”

The Battle for Madison will mark the third time the two teams have squared off in an exhibition match. The Flamingos beat the Badgers twice last year, a 2-0 win at home and a 2-1 victory at UW’s McClimon Soccer Complex.

New signings and a core of returning players

The Flamingos announced the addition of 25-year-old center back Jalen Crisler on Tuesday. Crisler impressed in Forward Madison’s January combine with his defensive play and passing.

“We feel like Jalen is a guy that’s going to compete to play a lot of minutes in our defense this year,” Shore said in the announcement. “Both on and off the ball, we felt like Jalen has what we are looking for. He has good size, he’s good in the air and he looks to break lines with his passing, all of which we really liked.”

The 6’4” center back is still relatively new to professional play after rebounding from a torn ACL following the conclusion of his collegiate career with Gonzaga. He fought his way onto Detroit City FC’s back line where he featured heavily in their Member’s Cup run in the NPSL.

Crisler will compliment versatile defender Christian Díaz, who was named to USL League One’s Best XI last year. Shore will need to find a replacement at goalkeeper for his defense after transferring Brian Sylvestre, who was re-signed in October, to Miami FC in exchange for an undisclosed monetary fee.

Madison also announced a slew of other signings, including the addition of midfielder Michael Vang. The 19 year old opted out of pursuing a collegiate soccer career and instead signed with Portuguese third-division club S.U. 1º Dezembro, where he eventually played his way onto their first team.

Vang, a Saint Paul, Minnesota native, brings US youth national team experience with him. Shore said that Vang has the potential to compete for minutes immediately.

“It’s an amazing feeling, signing my first pro contract,” Vang said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since a young age, and I’m going to do my best to climb up the ranks of the team.”

In the midfield, Vang joins Eric Leonard and J.C. Banks, who both played in all of Madison’s USL League One games last season. The Flamingos also re-signed midfielders Brandon Eaton and Vital Nizigiyimana this winter.

On the front line, Madison added veteran forwards Jamael Cox and Wojciech Wojcik. Cox played 23 games for USL League One side FC Tucson last year, where he scored and assisted on three goals in 18 starts. Wojcik, who has played in Finland and in various American leagues, scored seven goals for Hartford Athletic in the USL Championship last season.

“Although we did well in our first year, we owe it to our fans to try to win a championship in 2020,” Shore said. “Wojciech is a seasoned professional who will add a physical side to our game and help us score more goals than last season.”

The duo will look to add more stability up front for the Flamingos along with returners Don Smart and Paulo Júnior, who both started nearly every game in 2019, as well as Jiro Barriga Toyama, who made 26 appearances last season.

Forward Madison will kick off their preseason against Saint Louis FC on February 29 before going on the road to open up USL League One play against the Richmond Kickers on March 28.