It’s been a long two weeks since Flower City Union were last on the field. While the loss to USL Championship side Loudoun United FC was probably predicted, it’s still a tough way to be knocked out of the US Open Cup, and a tough way to begin a two week break. However, it was a beautiful night for soccer in Rochester, and the exciting home opener of the 2023 season. After having lost the first game of the season to Maryland Bobcats at the beginning of April, the home opener would be the perfect time to get revenge.
Flower City started the night in last place, mostly because they’d only played 2 games so far this season, losing both by only one goal. Maryland on the other hand started the night in second place, having won both of their matches. When these teams last met, Flower City had barely played together, and that was their first time on the field as a complete team. Since then, the problem Flower City has had is a lack of scoring, as in their opening four games they had solid defense, but only scored against a lower division team.
It was immediately noticeable just how much of a difference 6 weeks had made. Whereas the last match they spent having issues getting it into Maryland’s half, the first 10 minutes the ball barely ever left Maryland half. Players like Frederick Opoku and Aklioune Diakhate,who’d so far this season shown they have skill but haven’t really shined, really spent the opening of the game impressing with their offensive skill. It wasn’t until 10 minutes in before Maryland spent any time in the Flower City Union end. When Maryland did have pressure, the FCU defense showed why they’ve been the strongest part of the team so far. Mumbi Kwesele continued to show why he was chosen as Captain, being strong in the back, along with Noah Cavanaugh and Kyle Nelson to keep a solid back line. The best chance in the opening 20 minutes for either team was a rocket from Maryland’s Darwin Espinal into the side of the net.
Flower City Union’s first great chance came exactly on 25 minutes. Stephen Elias intercepted a pass in the FCU end, and sent a long ball to Diakhate. He barely got a step on the defender and never quite got clear. He would have had the goalkeeper beaten, but he couldn’t quite hit it clearly and it went just wide of the net. Espinal continued to show why he’s the best player on Maryland’s team. Around the 30th minute he took on two defenders and put a shot on goal that goalkeeper Michael Mejia saved. However, it wasn’t to last long as in the 33rd minute Flower City fouled the Bobcats about 25 yards from the net. Espinal took the free kick and curled it just inside the post, past the diving hands of Mejia. There were chances going both ways for the rest of the half, and neither team really dominated, but Flower City entered the half down by 1-0.
The second half started strong for both teams. Espinal continued pressing the Flower City defense with a couple chances right after the half. On the 55th minute Flower City had a great chance. At almost exactly the same point where Maryland scored on their free kick, Cavanaugh had a free kick that he chipped into the box. Diakhate got his head on it, but not with enough power to put it past the keeper. Five minutes later was another free kick from the exact same spot, and Nelson got his head on it, but it went just over the bar.
Maryland finally put in their second goal in the 71st minute. A free kick from the touchline was sent into the Flower City box, and unfortunately Kwesele got too much on it, and it was deflected into the goal for an own goal. Only 7 minutes later, Maryland midfielder Josselin Possian sealed the game by putting the lead well out of reach. It was two preventable goals in a short amount of time, and that wasn’t the end of Flower City’s problems. In the 81st minute, Matt Bolduc received his second yellow card, meaning they had to play down a man for the final 10 minutes. He will now be suspended for their next match as well. While they were short one player, I do have to commend that they didn’t give up. The final ten minutes of the match were mostly played in Maryland’s end, as Flower City continued to press the attack and ended strongly, despite being down a man and 3 goals.
Overall, it was a beautiful night for soccer, but not the result that Flower City had hoped for. This was the first time this season the defense really broke down (aside from the Open Cup match against a higher division team). Flower City’s biggest issue continues to be the lack of scoring. While they scored 3 goals against an amateur team, they continue to have no goals against teams in their league. Stay tuned to our social media, as we interview both head coaches and Flower City Union forward Luke Ferreira about the match. Flower City Union returns to play next Saturday at home against Chattanooga at 6 PM.
33′ – Darwin Espinal
71′ – Mumbi Kwesele (OG)
78′ – Josselin Possian
70 degrees, sunny, clear