The Elm City Express hosted Boston City FC in a highly engaging third home match of the season on Wednesday night. After battling hard for ninety minutes through injuries and a short bench, the Express clinched all three points on the night, edging BCFC 2-1. The players never failed to entertain the fans, keeping the contest lively.
The match started without fireworks as both teams sought to feel the other out. The Express attempted the occasional foray through the BCFC’s defence, yet clearly preferred to maintain their team’s organized shape and keep their midfield close to the defence to avoid counter attacks.
As the game started to warm up, however, space opened up on the flanks. BCFC midfielder Pedro Silva found himself with the first chance of the game in the 14th minute off of a low cross from the left side but shot the ball over. This close call encouraged BCFC, who pushed forward and came close again through a Rigoberto Jimenez shot five minutes later.
The Express, however, held on and fired back, seeking to soak up pressure and hitting BCFC on the counter attack. The hosts found success, surprisingly, off of a BCFC corner: Shaquille Saunchez collected the clearance and carried the ball most of the field before feeding Lucas Sousa, who came painstakingly close to beating BCFC’s keeper. Just a minute later, Saunchez set up another chance with an inspired cross from the right. The Express, however, seemed to be cursed, as the ball again flew wide of the post.
Saunchez would not be discouraged, saying“the team came out with the energy today to fight on.”
And fight on they did; in the 23rd minute, Saunchez broke the deadlock with a thundering finish that gave the Express a 1-0 lead. After controlling a long pass, Saunchez beat a defender before rifling a venomous shot through a second defender’s legs and past the keeper, into the bottom corner.
With the crowd cheering, Saunchez and the Express were now in control of the game. They smelled blood and pounced, sensing their moment to strike. Ten minutes after going on top, Saunchez found himself with a golden one-on-one with the keeper. Rather than closing his eyes and blasting the ball, Saunchez calmly flicked the ball around the keeper before being brought down in the box. A penalty was awarded to Elm City. Sousa took the responsibility and slotted the ball in the lower right as the keeper stood motionless. Elm City now had a 2-0 lead. Having struck twice in just ten minutes, the Express’s ferocious pressure left them in control of the game and firmly in the driving seat.
BCFC, however, managed to organize their defense, and avoided conceding another goal, closing the half at 2-0.
The Express, seeking to close the game out early, started the second half as the stronger side, possessing the ball and passing effectively on the ground. In the 50th minute, the Express almost capitalized on their slick play as midfielder Miguel Alcover’ rocket of a shot was tipped just wide by Estive Sosa, BCFC’s keeper.
Having survived this scare, BCFC pushed on the attack, confident that the game was not yet over. Just five minutes later, their pressure paid off, as a driven cross from the right side resulted in an own goal for the Express, cutting the home side’s lead to 2-1. With little over half an hour to play, what had seemed to be a one-sided game was again wide open. The home fans fell silent as the recent memory of last week’s 4-4 tie with Kingston FC rushed back, a game in which the Express lost a 4-0 halftime lead.
The Express players, however, were determined to apply the lessons learned from last week’s tie and keep their lead. They tightened their defence and fought hard, desperate to clear each cross and win every 50/50 ball. BCFC kept the ball for the remainder of the game as the Express sought to soak up pressure and hit on the counter.
BCFC came closest to tying the game in the 73rd minute. Jimenez, picking the ball up on the left side, beat the first defender before firing a thundering shot to the far post. A fantastic save from a flying Oscar Acosta temporarily saved the net, yet the rebound fell in the six-yard box and slowly spun towards an empty goal. As the fans watched in terror, Express defender Josh Calderon, who had come off the bench two minutes earlier, lunged at the ball, clearing it with the outside of his foot just as it was reaching the line. The Express had survived the danger and kept their lead.
BCFC gave their all for the rest of the game, but the Express’s tenacious defence proved too much for their efforts. The game ended 2-1, resulting in the Express’s second win of the season. Express head coach Teddy Haley emphasized that “It was a crucial three points for us.”
“We gave away some goals in the last match that we shouldn’t have,” Haley added. “You start to lose a little confidence when you leak goals and don’t get results when you should. For us to go and stay strong even when we conceded was big.”
Saunchez reiterated his coach’s point. “Today we finally closed out a game, the positive is that we got three points.”
The win moves the Express up to sixth in the North Atlantic Conference with a record of 2-2-2. BCFC stays ninth with a record of 1-4-2.
Contributor: Bruno Moscarini and Luca Richo/Elm City Express
Photo Credit: Bruno Moscarini/Elm City Express