The games came fast and heavy for the City Union this week, with their third game in a week. Whereas they entered this stretch lossless in their last 5 meetings, they lost both of the games this week. After splitting the series so far with both teams winning one game, they returned to Maryland where their season started, eager to turn things around and get back to their winning form. Maryland had recently dropped into 4th place, while Salt City Union can still hop into the last playoff spot with a win.
It was another game where Salt City Union shot themselves in the foot and started with an early goal against them. It was only 90 seconds in, and Maryland was given far too much space around the SCU box. After a save by goalkeeper Michael Mejia wasn’t captured or cleared properly, it fell to a Maryland player for an easy tap-in.
The next 20 minutes were relatively even, with a few chances on both sides. Matt Bolduc and Logan Lee both took the ball forward, trying to fill the spot of the suspended Alioune Diakhate, who was suspended but wasn’t traveling with the team for this match anyway. Salt City Union wasn’t really able to get a good shot on goal, and corner kicks were easily fielded by the Maryland keeper. The 21st minute saw Maryland nearly double their lead, as it appeared they had beaten Mejia with a shot to the bottom corner, but it was put off the goalpost and skittered away harmlessly. Maryland had another great chance 10 minutes later, after a spell of Salt City Union possession, as the ball came to their best player on a breakaway. Darwin Espinal got the ball behind the SCU defenders, but Josue Cartagena worked to run back fast muscle his way in front, and take the ball off him. The final close call came in the 45th minute when a shot about 30 yards out was put just over the crossbar.
I’d have to say that the first half was fairly even. Salt City Union appeared to have more possession but were unable to have much of an attacking presence or any sustained pressure near the Maryland goal. Maryland on the other hand seemed to have less possession but were more dangerous with it. They had a few quick breaks that led to close chances.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were more of the same as the first. Neither team really had many chances, and the ball was exchanged with frequency. The first shot of the second half came for Maryland in the 65th minute. The attacker beat a diving Mejia, who had come pretty far out. Kyle Nelson however cleared it off the goal line. It was only a stay of less than a minute though, as Espinal would soon get the ball and put it into the net, with Mejia without a chance to stop it.
It was a frustrating night to support Salt City Union. I’ve made excuses for losses before, like saying it was just one bounce that went the wrong way, or one bad call went the wrong way, or the referee was in the pockets of LA Force. However, in this match they have no excuse. They were not a good enough team. They weren’t totally outplayed, but they barely created any chances on goal either. On the other hand, when Maryland got a chance, they made the best of it, and that’s why a relatively even game ended up a 2-0 Maryland win. It’s now been 369 minutes since the City Union last scored, which is all too reminiscent of the start of the season. It appears moving into that final playoff spot won’t be happening this week, which makes next Sunday’s match against Club de Lyon all the more important.