Club de Lyon came to Flower City Union after having lost 3 in a row, while FCU was riding high with wins in 4 of their last 5. The implications of this game were huge for the rest of the season. There were still 10 games left, but whoever won would be filling the final playoff spot, somewhere that FCU has never found themselves.
It was a far from ideal start for Flower City. In only the third minute a defending mix-up in the 18-yard box leading to a Lyon goal. A pass from Noah Cavanaugh to Kyle Nelson was taken too hard and bounced right to a Lyon player, slotted into the bottom left corner without goalkeeper Michael Mejia having a chance. The opening 20 minutes or so of the game went all Lyon’s way. It was a fair amount of defending errors on FCU’s part, and they were lucky to have only given up 1 goal in the half. There probably should have been at least 3 goals, but a lot were put over the crossbar.
Towards the 20-minute mark, FCU finally started to put on some pressure of their own. In the 20th minute, Flower City Union had their first corner kick of the match. I’ve given praise before to Luke Ferriera’s corners, and been critical when they went short, and this corner showed why. It was high and curling towards the goal, the Lyon keeper jumped with the ball going off the keeper’s hand, but slammed off the crossbar. Ferreria was also instrumental in their next real chance in the 28th minute. Ferreira got away from a defender and sent the ball across the field to Matt Bolduc, who then put it centrally to Alioune Diakhate. Diakhate turned at about 12 yards out and slammed it toward goal, but it went high. The final real chance came near the end of the half. Ferreira again had a free kick, at an angle from about 20 yards out. He curled it around the 3 defenders, and the goalkeeper didn’t take it cleanly, it bounced around a bit but the keeper ended up with it. It was a poor start for FCU, but they were the better team for the second part of the half.
After their strong conclusion to the first half, Flower City Union came out as the dominant team in the opening minutes of the second half. Most of the opening minutes were played in Lyon’s end, the highlights being a free kick that made its way through the wall but ended up right at the keeper, and a Matt Bolduc pass from the touchline across the mouth of the goal, that was taken by the diving hand of the Lyon keeper. The 61st minute saw by far the best chance of the night. Ferreira, Diakhate, and Bolduc all took deflected shots at the goal, with Bolduc’s spinning and finally being caught by the keeper; it was surprising none found their way into the net, but it was a good save and defending.
Around this time, Lyon started putting on the pressure. It was mostly their game for the next ten minutes or so, culminating in a 3 on 2 that was put across the face of goal, but a Lyon attacker couldn’t get their foot on it and it trickled out of bounds harmlessly. FCU continued their attack, and substitute Angelo Calfo had another great chance, as he slammed it towards the bottom right corner, where a diving Lyon keeper barely kept it out. It was finally leveled in the 81st minute after a hell of a play by Ferreira: he took a long ball, got around a defender, and cleared it into the middle of the 6 yard box. It seemed like it was just being sent to 2 defenders, but it found Diakhate’s foot for the tying goal.
In the remaining minutes of the match, FCU was the dominant team. There were a few questionable calls by referees, but in the end, they just didn’t have enough to put in a winning goal. While they were generally the better team for most of the game, they really came out even better once the substitutes were made in the 60th and 77th minutes. The most noticeable in pushing FCU closer towards more goals was Calfo and Malik Stewart. It would be interesting to know how they would have affected the game had they come on 5 minutes earlier, or if stoppage time were that much longer.
I’m of two minds about this result. First, the negative: Flower City Union could have and probably should have won this match. As they did last time against Club de Lyon, they gave up a stupid early goal and had to play catch-up the entire time. They were lucky it was not a repeat of that match, as there was more than one error that could have led to more goals. With how both teams have been playing recently, it should have been 3 points for FCU, but they damaged themselves early. On the positive side: until recently if they went down a goal, they had never come back to tie or win. Now, they’ve done that three times in less than a month, with two wins and this draw. You can’t win every game, even ones that it seems like you should when you’re on a hot streak. To give up a goal within the first 3 minutes was terrible, but to be the better team for most of the match and score the goal to salvage a point is commendable. That point is huge, as it doesn’t help either team, whereas a loss would have put Lyon at least 2 wins above FCU on the table. Their next match will be an interesting one, as Chattanooga has yet to lose this year. Chattanooga are surely expected to win, but FCU has played admirably against them in both outings so far.