It was a huge match for Flower City Union in Rochester on Tuesday night, as they were being chased by Club de Lyon for the final playoff spot. Last week, Savannah Clovers had to cancel a match against FCU due to a Covid outbreak, and the only time to reschedule it was an 8:30pm match on a Tuesday at Paetec Park. Played behind closed doors, with weather in the 40s, and a light rain, it was an interesting night for soccer.
The opening of the game was all FCU. The first 12 minutes, the ball didn’t even cross into their half for more than a few seconds. It also only took that long for Alioune Diakhate to open the scoring. After a lot of sustained pressure, Luke Ferreira received the ball in the Savannah box, and had all the time in the world to line up his shot. His turning shot slammed into the arm of a Savannah defender, and it seemed as if it should have been called a handball, however, the rebound fell to Diakhate for an easy tap-in and the first goal of the match.
It seemed like that goal swung the momentum for Savannah, and it didn’t take long for them to equalize. In the 24th minute, they had a corner kick that was taken long to the back post. The attacker was left wide open and he put it in. The ball seemed to have been saved off the line twice by goalkeeper Michael Mejia, and FCU argued that it never crossed the line, but it was still given as a tying goal.
The dying minutes of the half found the only other real opportunity for either team. Ferreira made a great run with a long shot from the edge of the 18 yard box. The ball was saved at the post by a diving Savannah keeper, and the resulting corner came to nothing, and so the teams entered the half tied at 1.
While most of the play seemed to be controlled by Flower City Union, being tied at the half was probably a fair result. The second half though, was controlled almost exclusively by FCU. It began in the 53rd minute, when Ferreira made some great step-overs to maintain possession and bring the ball into the Savannah box. He was taken down and awarded a penalty shot. Shockingly, for the second time in 4 days, the Savannah keeper saved a penalty shot, with a dive to the left to take it cleanly. Ferreira redeemed himself only 3 minutes later though, in the 56th minute when the ball fell to Stephen Elias in the box. He passed it to Ferreira who slammed it past the keeper diving to his left, to give FCU their second goal. Ferreira was again a part of the next goal when he took a free kick in the 59th minute. Josue Cartagena received it on the opposite side of the box, sending it back in. Last game’s late hero Logan Lee headed the ball towards goal, for it to finally make its way in by a header from Kyle Nelson.
It seemed as if once FCU went up 3-1 that they took their feet off the gas. It wasn’t that subs were necessary to play more defensively, or that they stopped trying, but they did seem to ease up, and it showed, as the period after the third goal was when Savannah looked their strongest to this point. The 71st minute saw this pay off when the Savannah striker got the ball on the near side, and slammed it into the top nearside corner, over a dropping Mejia. It had been FCU’s game for most of the play, but this seemed to make things more tense than they had to be. FCU though didn’t take long to regain the two goal lead. In the 78th minute, Malik Stewart finally helped put the game to bed when he took the ball along the near sideline. He sent it through the box, where it found nobody. On the far side it fell to Lee who took a shot past the diving keeper, for his second goal in four days, and second ever FCU goal. He injured himself in the process and had to be subbed off, but at least it didn’t look too serious, as he walked off unaided.
The result for Flower City Union was huge for playoff implications. While Club de Lyon has 3 games in hand, FCU sits 5 points above them on the table. Due to the huge goal differential, that means that of those 3 games, CDL has to win two, as FCU is far better on that first tiebreaker so a win and two draws will not help CDL. Flower City Union returns to the downtown stadium for their final home match of the season on Saturday night, but all 4 of Club de Lyon’s final matches are after that date, so no what, there will be a time where Flower City Union’s playoff destiny is out of their hands.