Fresh off their West Coast trip, Flower City Union returned home to Rochester with still 1 win at the bottom of the table. That bottom spot was on the line yesterday, as a win against Savannah would leapfrog them in the table. While they lost both games on their trip to Albion San Diego and LA Force, they looked like a much better team, coming home was a chance to prove themselves. They stuck with the same attacking formation they had used last match, but they looked much better using it.
The opening of the game went back and forth for both teams. The first substantial attempt came in the 8th minute when Savannah had a free kick just outside the FCU box. The ball was looped into the awaiting head of the Savannah forward, and he put it right at goalkeeper Michael Mejia for a nice save to keep the game scoreless.
It didn’t stay scoreless for long though. Malik Stewart made a great run down the right-hand side. He jinked past the defender to keep the ball in play very impressively, as was noticing an open Bolduc at the center of the box, who turned and slammed the ball into the lower left corner in the 16th minute. The following minutes were almost all Flower City Union’s, with multiple chances and runs through the half of the field. After his goal in the last match, I do have a criticism of Alioune Diakhate though. I’m not saying it’s bad to be a team player, but it seemed as if he was afraid to take a shot. He would have the ball in a dangerous area, but he would take one touch too many, find himself surrounded, and pass the ball away.
Around the half-hour mark, I thought I would be commenting on a rare defensive error, however, it did not come to pass. I thought the defender had gotten past captain Mumbi Kwesele, however, he was just blocking the ball off to an impossible angle, and fellow defender Kyle Nelson made a great move to be where he had to be. The defending was solid throughout the game, as it usually has been. In the 37th minute, Matt Bolduc and Malik Stewert nearly got their pairing another point. A nice backheel from Diakhate sent Bolduc in towards goal, and he passed it to Stewart, but it trickled just wide.
Bolduc had a hell of a half, putting one just wide in the dying seconds, followed by slamming one at the keeper that was batted away in stoppage time. The stoppage time goal was not to be Bolduc’s, but Diakhate’s. The ensuing corner kick was sent to the far side of the Savannah box. Diakhate had an amazing bicycle kick, more sideways than overhead though, to slam it home, in what will surely be the best goal we will see the entire season.
Mejia, who was rarely troubled in the opening half, but was solid in the saves he had to make, made his first great stop about 8 minutes after the start of the second half. A free kick from 30 yards out curled around the wall and appeared to be heading perfectly to the bottom left corner. Mejia though was there to make a diving catch. Former Rochester Raging Rhino Jefferson Dargout was the referee, who drew the ire of the FCU team a few minutes later, as Kwesele appeared to get all ball in a great tackle, but was deemed to have fouled the Savannah player. It was tense as it was a repeat free kick from the exact same position as the one 2 minutes before, but this one went over the bar.
I complained during the first half about Diakhate being afraid to take shots, before making the best goal I have ever seen in person. Around the hour mark, he used some wonderful footwork to dance around the keeper, and while he took his shot, FCU’s first real chance of the half was put inches wide. The second half was not the most exciting game of soccer that we’ve ever seen. It was constant stoppages for fouls and free kicks, with much time spent arguing with the ref. It didn’t matter how exciting or boring the play was, what mattered was that they got their second home win in a row, and kept a clean sheet as well.
I have very little criticism of Flower City Union’s play during the match. Anyone on the pitch could have been chosen as Man of the Match and I would have been OK with it. The new formation they’ve recently switched to seems to be working, and they’ve finally gotten off the bottom of the table. A couple more wins will have them sitting where I believe they belong, but for now, moving to 8th place is a great success. They return to play as the home team on July 8th against Club De Lyon, and it’s listed as both a Flower City and a Salt City match, so it remains to be seen whether it’s in Rochester or Auburn.