In a feisty match played on a gorgeous evening in Leesburg, Northern Virginia United overcame early jitters to defeat FC Baltimore by a score of 3-0. United, hosting their second ever home match at CroppMetcalfe Park, came into this game on the back of a gutsy 2-1 victory over cross-river rivals FC Frederick a week previous. Baltimore traveled to Leesburg with a point to prove after a late penalty saw them fall away to Charlottesville Alliance the previous weekend.
A first half that saw Baltimore dominate possession, create most of the early chances but never find the back of the net gave United an opening in the 22nd minute. R.J. Moore cracked a shot off the crossbar from outside the box, where the rebound was not subsequently cleared by the Baltimore defense. The ball found its way to United’s Gio Vasquez, who curled in a sumptuous strike from the edge of the area to give United a lead much against the run of play. Following the goal, United got into the game more, finding space in midfield and looking dangerous from wide areas. Ten minutes before the halftime break, United captain Shaka Bangura was presented with an opportunity off a deflected cross in the corner of the penalty area, where he lifted a sweetly-struck volley over Baltimore goalkeeper Ben Sauer into the top corner to give the home side a 2-0 lead at the interval.
Baltimore could feel hard done by to find themselves trailing at halftime, but the second half continued much as the first had left off, with United finding their feet defensively, led by a Man of the Match performance by centerback Daniel Welsh and several top saves by goalkeeper Colin Shutler. As the night wore on, the match began to see more fouls from both sides, and several yellow cards were issued (two to Baltimore, one to United) to add to the caution shown to Baltimore’s Cale Thorne just before halftime. Baltimore began to see more possession and an increased presence in the United half as the second half went on, with United content to play on the counter, bringing on several subs to try and exploit Baltimore’s numbers pushed further forward. In the 94th minute, with the game all but wrapped up, United left back Jacob Campbell picked up the ball inside his own half and ran at an exposed Baltimore backline, where instead of laying the ball to a teammate he was determined to power all the way into the visitors’ penalty area and slot past Sauer for United’s third of the night, arguably as good a goal as the previous two.
The final whistle blew soon after, and United could enjoy the night knowing they had secured top spot in the conference for the moment. Following the match, the United players mingled with an appreciative crowd for autographs and photos in what is quickly becoming a post-match tradition at CroppMetcalfe Park.
“Baltimore were a tough side, they started quickly and made things difficult for us,” United head coach Brian Welsh said after the match. “We were solid at the back, started slow but three quality goals gave some entertainment value for the fans. Baltimore [are] a good team, and we’re looking forward to Charlottesville.”
Quick turnarounds were ahead for both teams, with United travelling to Charlottesville to play Cville Alliance FC, while Baltimore looked to get back on track at home versus Virginia Beach City FC.
Contributor: Connor Lee/Northern Virginia United
Photo Credit: Northern Virginia United