Flower City Union’s West Coast trip continued on Wednesday night at LA Force. They previously played them under circumstances that only FCU could have… as the “home” team in Auburn, and as Salt City Union, their alternate identity. That game did not go as anyone hoped, being their one truly deserved loss of this season. I hope they enjoyed their day off yesterday and their bonding by going to see The Flash, because the loss to San Diego on Sunday meant they already were behind the points total on the trip they hoped for.
The game saw the biggest change in tactics that we’ve seen so far. Stephen Elias was moved from his usual position much more forward, and substitutes from last game Alioune Diakhate and Oscar Sanchez were promoted to starters. It was a much more attacking lineup and formation than we have ever seen. Discussions as to what this formation actually was, were unproductive, but all fans could agree on though was that it was more attacking-minded. It was back and forth play for the first 20 minutes, without either team really having a good chance. The first chance for FCU came in the 22nd minute when the ball fell for Malik Stewart behind the defensive line. By the time he controlled the ball though, the keeper had cut off any chance he had at goal, so his shot towards the corner went safely wide of the net. The other real chance for FCU in the first half came from Diakhate when he took the ball behind the defenders with a keeper well out of net, but he chipped it much too high from 40 yards out.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a fan of NISA soccer and not go to the away games, I finally learned tonight, as it’s my first game all season that I didn’t watch in person. At the 45 minute mark, the camera battery lost power, but we’re going into stoppage time, surely nothing can happen, right? Of course LA Force scored a goal, as I’m watching the 1990s TV color bars on my screen. We then went to halftime, and the announcers told us the score, LA Force 1, Maryland Bobcats 0. Flower City Union had all the shots and were the better team at the half, but they give up a goal that wasn’t shown on camera, to what I’m told was a bad call, and were called another team’s name. NISA’s gonna NISA.
I’ve been told that Josue Cartagena is the best player that Flower City has at free kicks, but we haven’t seen him for the full 90 minutes this season. Around the hour mark I saw that skill I’d been told of. It wasn’t a free kick, but it was a slow play where FCU controlled the ball and passed it around. When Cartagena got the ball, he slammed it from 25 yards out, directly towards the top corner of the goal, but the keeper punched it over. Five minutes later, Matt Bolduc took the ball on the touchline and brought it around the defender, to put one shot off the goalpost and the follow-up off the side netting. The first 20 minutes of the half had been all Flower City Union. They finally gave up a free kick in the 67th minute, but it was well defended, and FCU made a counter-attack. Luke Ferreira took it to the LA Force touchline, beating everyone on the LA Force defense, and crossed it into the box for Diakhate to head the ball in and tie the match at 1.
It didn’t last long for Flower City Union, having outplayed LA Force for 25 minutes. However, right after their tying goal, there was a free kick from the center line that led to a goal for LA Force. It skipped past everyone on both teams and fell perfectly to the LA Force attacker to put them back up at 2-1, only 3 minutes after FCU had some hope.
The 90th minute saw a potentially tying goal, as a header was put on net, however the LA Force keeper punched it over the net. The goal for LA Force continued to be the only attack against the run of play for basically the entire second half. The new line-up didn’t pay off, but I feel like this was perhaps their best play all season. Malik Stewart was someone I haven’t mentioned yet that had a great game, continually mentioned by the announcers.
Zero points on the west coast trip. It wasn’t what anyone could have wanted. However, I try to look at the positives. Flower City Union were by far the better team all night. The first goal I cannot comment on, but it seems like at the least it was one bad play or may have been a bad call by the refs to give the corner kick anyway. The second goal was one that just bounced past everybody: not really a poor play but a weird one as to how it got through. Through all this though, Flower City Union had more attempts, more possession, and thoroughly outplayed them. I know that every week I keep making excuses for their losses, but usually I’m defending that FCU should have left with a draw instead of a loss. This game they deserved a win.