By Evan McMurtrie/FC Monmouth
FC Monmouth took all three points from Atlantic City FC with a 1-0 victory at the Silver Eagle Stadium in a match that did not conclude until almost five hours after its initial kickoff due to a weather delay.
“I think that they [the players] were more focused than they have been all year,” said FC Monmouth head coach Brian Woods. “It sort of reminded me of last year’s team more in the wake of that loss that we had last Wednesday. I thought that they took that to heart and they made it their personal vendetta to get this game done and they did everything they possibly could to win the match tonight.”
While Atlantic City held a stark advantage in shots (14-6) and corner kicks (5-0), the Aces registered just one shot on target in the entire match, which did not come until the 56th minute. FC Monmouth took six shots, with three of them landing on target and one landing in the back of the net.
“Honestly I thought we came out there flying, our mentality was strong all the way through,” said FC Monmouth defender and captain Zach Pereira. “We defended against a team that just put in ten goals in their last two games, keeping a clean sheet was huge.”
Midfielder Anthony Rovito scored the lone goal of the match in the 35th minute thanks to a devastating attacking sequence. The ball was played into forward Martin Ssessanga in traffic on the right side, who laid it off with a single touch to Rovito, who then sent it ahead to forward Regsan Watkins and advanced toward the 18-yard box in one fluid motion. With a defender hanging onto him, Watkins played the ball across the box as a sprinting Rovito took two touches into the penalty area before slotting it into the bottom corner of the net with his left foot.
“The goal has nothing to do with me,” Rovito said. “It was really just a collective team effort — I can’t score that goal without the guys around me.”
In the 59th minute, Atlantic City was awarded an opportunity to level the score when a penalty kick was given by the referee for a foul that took place in the box during a corner kick. Forward Matt Hendrickson stepped up to the spot and sent the ball flying past the right post, keeping the score at 1-0 in favor of FC Monmouth.
In the 70th minute, at about 7:30 pm, the referee ordered a halt to the game due to lightning strikes in the area, as the wind began to stir and the skies opened up. Both sides returned to their locker rooms as the rain and wind swirled. Though the rain stopped within thirty minutes, the lightning would not, keeping the players from returning to the field. The match did not restart until 10:20 pm.
“I think that the players themselves had a much better attitude about going back out onto the field than I ever thought they were gonna have,” said Woods. “Once we stepped on the field, I had a good feeling that we were gonna do what was necessary, because we knew that their [AC] intensity was gonna be through the roof, we knew we had to match it, and I thought we did a great job doing that.”
With about 20 minutes left to play, FC Monmouth defended their goal valiantly until the final whistle, spoiling Atlantic City’s perfect start to the 2019 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) season.
“We knew it was going to be rough, we knew they were going to throw everything that they had at us for the last twenty [minutes], but for this group of guys to pull it together with that awkward break and go for twenty more just shows how much character that we have and how much fight that we’re gonna have for the rest of the season,” Pereira said.
With the win, FC Monmouth improves to 2-1-0 on the season as they head back to Count Basie Park for a match with Philadelphia Lone Star FC on Saturday.
“I feel great and I know that the team feels great,” said Rovito. “The boys should feel great. This was a team victory, not any individual, this was about the team and it was just unbelievable.”
Photos Courtesy of FC Monmouth