Just as FC Baltimore needed other results to finish in first place in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, they needed results to advance to regionals. Once again, the expansion club, found their way into the next round and continue to play another day.
After winning the regular season title, FC Baltimore hosted the three seed in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, FC Frederick. Frederick had won on penalty kicks against Northern Virginia United two nights before and continued to ride on a hot end of the season.
The start of the Saturday night’s championship match was in FC Baltimore’s favor. The side was on the front foot and generate multiple chances. Those chances resulted in an opening goal in the 18th minute by leading scorer Josh Fawole, his 12th of the year. Baltimore looked in control, but things began to change. FC Frederick slowly made their way into the game. In the 27th minute, Justin Lee generated some space and fired a hooking ball past a diving Ben Sauer. Things were evened up at 1-1, and FC Baltimore did not seem the same since.
The second half came around and it did not take long for Frederick to strike. Graham Guidry helped complete a strong counter attack in the 50th minute, giving FCF the lead once and for all.
Frederick were able to see the remaining 40 minutes out. The visitors kept their shape and didn’t allow any balls to get behind them. With 10 minutes to go, things got a bit chippy, as they did in the last home match for FCB against Frederick. That 2-0 win for Baltimore saw Nate Hall sent off. This time, Frederick had to go down to ten men. With nearly five minutes to go, recently substituted Shawn Baker received a red card. There was limited time remaining and FCF held out for the win.
“To be honest, I felt pretty comfortable in the game all the way up until they scored,” FC Baltimore head coach Brandon Quaranta said after the game. “We didn’t mark a throw-in, we got lazy for a second, they scored a nice goal, and at that point it changed a little bit and evened out. But the reality is, we didn’t do enough in the second half to win the game, and they made a play on the counter and scored a nice goal, and that was the difference.”
It was not over yet for FC Baltimore. The expansion club needed a few things to happen. When qualifying for regionals, the auto-bid comes from each of the three conferences’ winners, Frederick sealed the MAC bid with a win. But, in regionals, there is a fourth spot, a wild card, and it goes to the team, who played in their conference championship game, did not win the championship game, and had the highest points per game from the regular season.
Since New York Cosmos B (North Atlantic Conference) and FC Motown (Keystone Conference) had a better PPG than FC Baltimore, the Roons needed those two teams to win their championship games to advance to regionals with the auto bids. Thanks to a very dominant regular season, FC Baltimore had better PPG’s than West Chester United SC and Brooklyn Italians, the two opponents.
FC Motown trailed West Chester United SC after 85 minutes. In the 88th, they found a way to tie things up and send it to extra time. Nobody scored in the extra 30 minutes, so off to penalties it went, and Motown won 4-2.
New York Cosmos B needed to win their match against Brooklyn Italians. This one also took penalties, but the Cosmos found a way, winning 5-3 and securing a spot in regionals for FC Baltimore.
FC Baltimore will travel to FC Motown and play the winners of the Keystone Conference regular season and postseason tournament. The winner advances to play the winner of FC Frederick and NY Cosmos.
Could we see another Maryland Derby? It’s certainly possible.
Contributor: Christian Taylor/FC Baltimore
Photo Credit: Chris Singlemann/FC Baltimore