The tough opponents just don’t stop at the start of this 2023 season for Flower City Union. Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to Chattanooga was a disappointing end to a match where they should have at least earned a point. Chattanooga had previously scored 12 goals in 3 games, and aside from a soft foul late in the game that led to a penalty kick, we would have held them scoreless. Tonight though was a new test for Flower City. Loudoun United is currently in the USL Championship, a tier above us, and currently having their best season yet, sitting in 4th. It was always going to be a tough test, but nothing is a certainty in the US Open Cup.
There were two changes to the Flower City line-up tonight. Alioune Diakhate returned at forward, replacing Matt Bolduc. It seems that Kyle Nelson picked up a small injury, so he was off in defense. The opening minutes of the game saw a far more end-to-end game than we’ve been used to. Flower City started hard, bringing the ball down to the Loudoun box multiple times, but it also saw multiple shots at our own goal. In the second minute Loudoun put one up and over the crossbar, and two minutes later saw a shot tipped over by goalkeeper Michael Mejia. It seemed like this was definitely going to be a night where the defense needed to be strong. Unfortunately, a few minutes of sustained pressure saw Flower City give up a goal in the 6th minute. Loudon carried the ball past our defenders and easily put it into the corner of the net.
It may have been a disappointing start, but it didn’t see them just sit back and give up. The following minutes saw sustained pressure for Flower City. There wasn’t a shot on target, but it did see a couple corner and free kicks that were put right into great areas if we could just capitalize. We also saw a Luke Ferreira attempt where he brought it down the field somewhat unimpeded, but then ran out of room and his angle left him with a shot going wide. A terrible cross in the 18th minute though almost led to a second Loudoun goal. I can barely say it was “intercepted”, as it was given right to the Loudoun defender, who took it in and only a brilliant diving save from Mejia kept us in the game.
For the next 15 minutes, it was a lot of back-and-forth play. Loudoun had most of the possession, but FCU kept bringing it to them as well. Our best chance yet came in the 30th minute, where a corner kick was collected by the goalkeeper jumping over two FCU players to snag it. Unfortunately, that’s where it all fell apart. Loudoun United put in two more goals to place them ahead 3-0 at the half. Yes, they were the better team, but FCU looked better than that scoreline suggested. Loudoun did not miss on the opportunities they were given.
Five changes at the half saw a team that was mostly not the same as it was the first half. It seems to me it was less a tactical change, and more to give everyone a chance to play. Loudoun did not relent though, and easily put the fourth goal in within 4 minutes of the restart. The goals just kept on coming. In the 61st minute, Mejia made a nice jumping save, but the rebound was put home to make it 5-0.
With a scoreline as it was, it would be easy to criticize and just comment how bad it was. But I truly don’t think it was as bad as the score suggested. The fact is, Loudoun is a team in a higher division, with more money, and better players. Some of their players are on loan from MLS clubs. We were never supposed to win this game. For much of the first half, we were their equals, trading possession back and forth. While Loudoun capitalized on their chances, unfortunately, we didn’t, and ours were far slimmer because we were playing a stronger team. Flower City Union did not give up though. When the score was 1-0 and when the score was 5-0, they still played with their heads held high and with the same fight. It’s not a result we wanted, but it’s one that was probably predicted. It’s also one where not a single player gave up the fight.
Flower City United at Segra Field
58 degrees, clear, no wind
Attendance: maybe 250, far smaller than the “1,600 tickets out” that I was told