It’s been 3 weeks since Flower City Union last played in the league, but they’ve been on their best form in franchise history. They’ve won 2 of their last 3 games, plus another win in the NISA Independent Cup, and they’re hitting their stride. Maryland will always be a tough opponent, and while the Bobcats haven’t been in their best form recently, they did come back from a deficit to win on Tuesday thanks to two late goals in two minutes.
Maryland was considered one of the top contenders this year. Prior results against them were expected to be losses but also could be considered successes since FCU held in and made the games close. Through the opening half hour, neither team really took control of the match. Aside from a few early miscommunications with the goalkeeper and tough clearances, it wasn’t until the half-hour mark that both teams really had their best chances. Maryland’s star player, Darwin Espinal, took the ball around the FCU defenders and down the touchline. As he passed it to the other forward, goalkeeper Michael Mejia (sporting a new haircut) dove to take it away by his fingertips. Malik Stewart then took the ball all the way down to Maryland’s box, with an FCU advantage, but clearing it across the Maryland box, there was no one to slot in the pass.
Besides these back-to-back plays, it was a pretty uneventful half. That’s not to say it was boring, but there were not many real chances to go either way. Both teams were pretty evenly matched, and neither team really put much pressure on the other. So, Kids Night, and Flower City Union’s record attendance, ended the half tied at zero. At that point, it seemed like a draw and a point against a better team would be a good result for FCU.
Five minutes after the restart saw the best chance thus far. Maryland’s Espinal dangerously fought off the Flower City Union defenders and seemed to have a 1-on-1 with the keeper. Fortunately, while he can be dangerous, he put the ball at least 10 yards too high. Only three minutes later, going the other way, Flower City Union led against the Maryland Bobcats for the first time in their 3 matches this season. A perfect pass was slotted behind the defenders to a wide-open Malik Stewart. He took it the remaining 15 yards to put it past the keeper in the 53rd minute.
The 80th and 81st minutes saw chances for Flower City Union to seal the win, but through a spectacular sequence of events, they were unable to put it in either time. Both times, the ball was brought down the far side of the pitch and lobbed into the box. The first time, Angelo Calfo was right in the middle for a perfect shot, and his header went off the crossbar. Less than a minute later a similar play saw another header, but off the left goal post by Malik Stewart. Both times it seemed that would seal it, but it stayed a 1 goal game.
Six minutes of stoppage time was a worrying amount, as it gets nervy and one goal can lose you two points. However, in the second minute of stoppage time, the second goal that Flower City Union had teased earlier came to be. Alioune Diakhate took what was essentially a replay of the two missed opportunities, but put it in the back of the net.
This win could not have come at a better time. While Flower City Union has struggled to find a fanbase, this was their highest attendance of all time. Hopefully, the win will make these fans want to come back. It also came at a great time in their schedule, as they had dropped a position yesterday due to Gold Star’s draw, but tonight’s win puts them 2 points over them, into 7th place. The playoff spots are still a distance away, as Club De Lyon and LA Force are 5 points above FCU on the table. But NISA’s schedule is absurdly long, and Flower City Union is playing the best they ever have. October is a long time away, and 5 points is nothing in the grand scheme of things with 27 points on the table with 9 games left to play.
And on a personal note, tonight’s game saw the first-ever match attended by the daughter of Valiant 33’s Mike. I have nothing to do with the team, but I’m dedicating this win to her (mainly just to see if he reads this far when my articles are edited).