By Connor Lee/Northern Virginia United FC
Thursday night at Evergreen Sportsplex, Northern Virginia United FC were involved in a true
must-win battle at home with FC Baltimore Christos but came up short in a 2-1 loss. The result
kept Baltimore in the hunt for top spot in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, while placing United
firmly in third place with three matches to go in the regular season.
The sides had faced off six days prior at CCBC Essex in a game also won 2-1 by Baltimore, and
United were looking to rebound from back-to-back losses in the return leg. The hosts started the
game well, with Alex Garuba finding space to shoot in the first five minutes but unable to keep
his effort on target. Tre Pulliam was threatening for the visitors from wide areas much as he had
in the previous game, delivering dangerous crosses for Malcolm Harris to try and get on the end
of. United’s Sam Solomon almost got the crowd on their feet just before the 10th minute with an
overhead kick from the edge of the box, but his shot failed to trouble Baltimore keeper Casey
The hosts continued to push the game and create chances, Chris Welsh the next to test Beyers
with a well-placed free kick in the 16th that produced a fine save from the Baltimore keeper.
The reverse fixture had seen several players booked, and the match in Leesburg soon followed
suit with Solomon booked two minutes later for a poorly-timed tackle. The visitors began to find
their stride as the first half wore on, with Harris almost sneaking in behind United center back
Sam Golan to poke home and Pulliam nearly creating an opening for himself down the right just
The home side went the closest in the 26th minute as Sam Golan rose highest from a corner only
to see his effort clatter off the post. Baltimore were clearly content to keep patient possession
while United were seeking to break through Solomon and Garuba. The sides continued to trade
chances in a back-and-forth first half, and United saw another player booked as Alex
Shahmirzadi saw yellow for a tactical foul.
Finally, on the stroke of halftime United found a breakthrough. Beyers brought down Bardia
Kimiavi in the box, with the United man’s lightning pace having become more and more of a
threat to the away side, and Welsh buried the subsequent spot kick to give the hosts a deserved 1-
0 lead at the break.
The visitors started the second half more strongly, Pulliam switching to the left and causing all
sorts of havoc with his pace and crossing ability. Five minutes into the second half, Baltimore’s
wing play finally paid off. Nick Richardson delivered a fantastic cross to the middle of the United box to find an unmarked Harris, who headed into the corner to draw the away side level.
The match opened up tremendously from here, with Sam Solomon going closest next on a
curling effort that scraped just beyond Beyers’ left-hand post.
Baltimore’s Eddy Rodriguez was the next man in the referee’s book just before the hour mark.
Garuba saw his free kick from 30 yards parried away by Beyers, whose performance in goal
went a long way to securing the points for the visitors. United goalkeeper Colin Shutler turned
in good saves of his own, as some last-ditch defending by Golan gave him a chance to make a
fine 1v1 stop on Nick Gumbs. Solomon similarly saw his 1v1 chance saved by Beyers again
after he brilliantly turned his defender, and the end-to-end nature of the game was only slowed
by the waning fitness of the players.
It seemed as though one more goal would win it, and Baltimore found the breakthrough with
fifteen minutes to play. A bad giveaway on the United left saw substitute Arion Sobers-Assue
pick out Richardson in the box, who slotted cooly past Shutler to put the visitors in front. Both
sides continued to introduce substitutes: Baltimore to see the game out and United as they chased
a needed equalizer. The score would stay the same though, and Baltimore would cross the
Potomac with all three points as they continued to chase Virginia Beach City FC for first place in
the conference. Northern Virginia United deserved at least a share of the points for their efforts,
but it wasn’t to be on the night.
“It’s a game of fine margins, all of our last three games decided by one goal,” said United boss
Brian Welsh after the match. “Baltimore are a good experienced team, and we’re a pretty young
team so we’ll get there.”
Northern Virginia United travel next to Charlottesville Alliance FC on Saturday, while Baltimore
wait a week to visit FC Frederick on June 28th.
Photo Credit: Ryan Leung/NVUFC Media