By Scott White/Erie Commodores
Two second-half goals from forward Curtis Stollery were enough to clinch all three points against Pittsburgh Hotspurs on Saturday night. Pittsburgh scored late in the first half against the run of play through a good finish from Kevin Stouffle, whose goal was the first-ever for Hotspurs.
The game was played in front of a lively crowd as the Armada made the short trip down 79 and were joined by a large group of Hotspurs supporters, many were youth players in the Hotspurs academy that had been playing at the Erie Premier Sports Annual Soccer Tournament at Edinboro University that day. This atmosphere added to what was an exciting encounter that had everything you’d want from a soccer game. The Erie side will travel to Cleveland to face Cleveland SC on Friday evening looking to maintain their unbeaten record.
Right from the beginning Erie dictated play with the midfield trio of Craig Quinn, Rodrigo Paredes Acosta, and Austin Solomon running the show early on, with the first meaningful chance of the game falling in the 17th minute when goalkeeper Alexander Brems was called into making a smart save after a free-kick from 25yards out from Hotspurs forward Mohamed Balde. The first chance for the Commodores fell to Stollery in the 19th minute as he beat his defender on the outside before powering a shot wide. This was a recurring feature for Erie in the opening half who couldn’t find that quality in the final third.
The Commodores were knocking on the door of the Pittsburgh goal throughout the first half, mostly coming through Strolley and Mathias Krigbaum.
Krigbaum’s pace and power was too much for the Hotspurs defense to handle but the big Dane couldn’t convert his multiple chances on goal. The opening half would go from bad to worse for the Erie team as Pittsburgh would open the scoring in the 42nd minute. The action was not yet over for the first phase. In the 44th minute the Commodores thought they had clinched an instant response from an in-swinging corner that through a cluster of players ended up rippling the back off the net. Amidst the celebrations the linesman’s flag was up. Halftime saw Pittsburgh Hotspurs clinging to a 1-0 lead.
The Erie side came out for the second half full of energy and were a team on a mission. Creating numerous good chances in the opening couple of minutes but still nothing could be converted. The main threat still came from Krigbaum and Stollery but neither it would appear had their scoring cleats on. That was until the 62nd minute when the Commodores would level the game through a beautiful finish from Stollery. After some nice interchanges of play, the Australian was slipped through on the right-hand side and finished neatly going across the Hotspurs keeper to make it 1-1.
Erie made a double substitution after the goal which seemed to spur them on adding more of a presence in the final third. Substitute Owen Connelly added a calming influence spreading passes and linking up well with the forwards. The Commodores had the ball in the back of the net again in the 69th minute but it was declared offside.
The Commodores were truly on top now creating good chances, but credit must be given to Hotspurs backline as they stood strong. Another offside goal for Erie came in the 80th minute as Kieran Paterson thought he’d put his side in front after an exquisite though ball from Connelly, but the New Zealand native was judged to be offside.
The second goal came in the 82nd minute as Stollery tallied his third goal in all competitions this season. After neat play down the Commodores left side the ball was switched on the foot of Stollery, who beat his man on the outside before firing a beautiful right-footed strike into the top left corner from 20 yards out. Erie Commodores now led 2-1.
Substitute Mako Makoanyane would see his effort rattle the crossbar in the 91st minute.
The Commodores showed strength in the second half executing their chances whilst keeping control of the game. The score line perhaps doesn’t reflect the game, but the three points is the most important thing and keeps title hopes alive. The traveling support who made the short trip could go home happy with their team’s effort and commitment.
The Commodores’ next outing will be on Friday, May 31st against Cleveland SC at George Finnie Stadium in Berea, OH at 7:30 pm ET.
Photo Credit: Jennifer White/Acacia Studios