Union Dubuque FC manager Jon Denham can see improvement from week to week, and even practice to practice.

Against the defending national champion, the result isn’t always going to be a favorable one.

Except, sometimes it is.

Alejandro Cosmopolis gave Union an early lead, and Tigrio Huerta netted the equalizing goal just before halftime, and Dubuque battled to a draw with reigning United Premier Soccer League champion Milwaukee Bavarians SC, 2-2, on Sunday at the Rock Bowl.

The Bavarians had beaten Dubuque, 4-1, last Sunday in Milwaukee. Union, Denham said, will gladly take the point.

“We want to make sure that we give everyone our best shot, that even if it’s a club like Bavarians, who have been around for 90 years, they know that we’re not going to be a pushover. They’re going to get our best shot,” Denham said. “In terms of last Sunday to this Sunday, the improvement was there. We gave them our best shot and there’s definitely a lot of reasons to be proud of the point we get.”

The draw snapped a two-match UPSL Midwest Conference Central Division losing streak for Dubuque, which improved to 0-2-2 in the division and with two points is tied with the Cedar Rapids Inferno for fourth in the five-team division. The league removed a forfeit victory over the Madison 56ers, who ceased operations prior to the season.

“We came out strong and we wanted to make a statement right away coming off last weekend,” said Union goalkeeper Nathan Wisbey, who finished with eight saves. “In the second half we just wanted to stay patient on the ball and do what we know how to do best and stay composed. Composure was huge, especially in those last 15 minutes.”

Both of Dubuque’s first-half goals came on similar sequences.

Cosmopolis lofted a shot past the onrushing goalkeeper from distance to put Dubuque in front, 1-0, in the seventh minute. From nearly the same spot, and under the same circumstances, Huerta found the net in the 42nd minute.

“As soon as I hit it, I figured it was going in,” Huerta said. “We don’t want to go into half down, our heads down or anything like that. We knew we could stay with them, so that’s what we talked about. We’ve got two goals, we’re tied, we’re in the game. Now we just have to get more goals and figure out the rest. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any more.”

Andre Francois drew Milwaukee even in the 12th minute, and Taylor Pill converted a penalty kick in the 19th for a 2-1 Bavarians lead.

Wisbey, who made a handful of highlight-reel saves, was voted by fans as Dubuque’s man of the match.

“It’s really the guys in front of me who are doing all the work. Without them, we’d be down like four or five for sure,” Wisbey said. “It was really the guys in front of me that were putting in the work. We were all communicating and everybody keeping their heads in the end is what got us the tie. We wanted the win, but we’ll settle for a tie today.”

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