By Connor Lee/Northern Virginia United FC
In the most explosive performance in Northern Virginia United’s short history in NPSL, the Sky
Blues hit the Mid-Atlantic Conference champions Frederick FC for five goals with none
conceded as they kicked off the 2019 NPSL season on the road Wednesday night. United saw
several players make their full debut, and a healthy mix of youth and experience was key to the
away side’s performance.
Both teams started the match cagily, with possession changing hands often in a midfield battle.
United’s back four took a few minutes to get comfortable with Frederick’s pressure up front, and
some early slips almost let the hosts in. United were gifted the first half-chance of the game, with
Alexander Abril nearly taking advantage of a mixup between Frederick goalkeeper Connor
Andrews and his center backs. Abril was the danger man for United in the early going, always
looking to run off the back shoulder of the Frederick defenders and create 1v1s. Midfielders
Chris Welsh and Chris Little were happy to oblige these runs, the passing ability of the pairing
evident each time United sought to break forward.
The break finally came in the 18th minute, as United midfielder Alex Shahmirzadi drove with
the ball from inside his own half before playing a perfectly weighted through-ball to Alex
Garuba, the former Knoxville Force man coolly slotting home from just inside the penalty area.
Frederick, who had seen quite a bit of the ball prior to Garuda’s goal, were nearly back in the
match a few minutes later. A floated ball from the right after a set piece saw forward Andrew
Lasso ghost in behind the United back line, but Lasso missed his lines and the chance came to
nothing. The home side were significantly more dangerous after going behind, however, seeing
sustained possession in United’s half. Lasso and strike partner John Eskay were the most
dangerous men on the pitch for the hosts, with Eskay causing havoc for the Sky Blues’ wide
backs with his clever dribbling and quick interplay with his midfielders. The pressure would
lead to naught, and the visitors would punish Frederick for their missed chances just after the
A long Welsh free-kick from United’s left troubled Andrews, who came a long way to try and
claim the contested ball. United center back Sam Golan arrived first, rising above Andrews to
knock home a header from near the penalty spot for the away side’s second of the night. The rest
of the first half was mostly controlled by the visitors, with both Garuba and Abril a constant
threat in behind from the left, and United easily could have managed another two goals. Both
players found themselves 1v1 with Andrews on the endline on different occasions after some
clever individual play, but the end product was slightly off.
Just before the break United would indeed get their third. Shahmirzadi and Golan were involved
again, with a long throw from the former seeing the latter again rise highest in the Frederick box
to power home his second of the game. The referee blew for halftime, and the hosts went into
the break with a mountain to climb.
Frederick began the second half much in the same way as they had responded to United’s
opener, with sustained possession and pressure in the midfield. Eskay and Lasso were again
dangerous, the former seeing several shots miss wide or blocked by some last-ditch defending
from United defenders. The host pressure faded slightly after about ten minutes, and United
were able to get on the ball again and look for the ball into the channels as they did in the first
half. A few minutes after the hour mark, United sealed the game from yet another set piece.
Shahmirzadi built upon his stellar first half with another assist from a long throw, this time
taking a slight nick on its way to Abril at the back post. The High Point man controlled neatly
before deservedly lashing a shot back across substitute keeper Abiye Jack, who could do nothing
as it flew into the bottom corner for 4-0.
From here the game slowed, and the exertion beginning to take a toll on the players as both sides
emptied their benches late in the second half. Some late tackles and afters off the ball saw
bookings for both teams, with Eskay and United right back Filip Brunett seeing yellow in the
waning stages of the match. The scoring was not yet over, with the visitors adding a fifth in
stoppage time. Substitutes Kahlil Dover and Sam Solomon would link up shortly after coming
on, with Dover showing tremendous pace down the right before picking out Solomon with a
pinpoint cross which Solomon could do little but find the back of the net from inside the six-yard
United nearly scored a sixth in the 85th, as Chris Welsh viciously whipped in a free kick from
wide on the left, but Abiye Jack produced an equally good save to deny the Scot from finding the
top corner. The referee finally blew for full-time, capping off a fantastic evening for the away
“Quality performance in our first game, good players in this team and we’re looking forward to a
good season from here,” said United head coach Brian Welsh after the match. “We’re not getting
Man of the Match Sam Golan had a lot to say about his team’s performance.
“Fantastic performance, good to get the clean sheet, great first game from the boys, really front-
to-back a great opener,” Golan said.
United return to Evergreen Sportsplex for their 2019 home opener versus Charlottesville
Alliance FC on June 6th, while FC Frederick travel to Virginia Beach City FC on June 2nd.
Photo Credit: Chris Jennings