By Connor Lee/Northern Virginia United FC
After three straight losses, Northern Virginia United FC turned finally turned a good
performance into a good result as they ran away 3-1 winners against Charlottesville Alliance FC
on Saturday. Two goals from captain Alex Garuba either side of a great goal from Chris Little
gave all three points to United, despite the efforts of Charlottesville’s Henry Kessler to bring the
home side back into the match. The result put United squarely in third place in the Mid-Atlantic
Conference, five points back of second place FC Baltimore Christos with two games to play.
The visitors clearly wanted to put the ghosts of missed chances from the previous three matches
to bed early, pressing the Charlottesville goal very early on. In the 12th minute they found the
goal their pressure had warranted, with a brilliant cross from right back Filip Burnett finding
Garuba unmarked in the box to head into the corner. To Charlottesville’s credit they responded
immediately, with Hristo Bustamente delivering several dangerous crosses from the left side the
just missed teammates in the box. In the 19th minute the away side would further put their
stamp on the game to double the score. Some patient possession on the United left eventually
saw a deflected cross cleared to the edge of the box, where Chris Little was gladly obliged by
belting a volley past a helpless Ryan Martin into the top corner. United continued to pile on the
pressure, with Alex Shahmirzadi trying his luck from distance and Sam Solomon having a goal
called back for a foul in the box, all in the first 25 minutes.
Charlottesville would see chances come few and far between from here, with Benjamin Ahrens’
attempt from the edge of the box just before the half hour flying over goalkeeper Colin Shutler’s
crossbar. Kessler looked the most likely to create chances for the home side, driving forward
from his center back position several times in the first half. However, United would grab a third
goal just minutes later to cap a fantastic first half. A through ball from Little saw Garuba go 1v1
with Martin, and the United man cooly rounded the goalkeeper to tap home from close range.
Little continued to involve himself in all the action, entering the referee’s book in the 35th
minute on top of his goal and assist. Again, Charlottesville responded well to conceding,
creating more chances from the left side through Bustamente. A defensive mixup from the
United back four almost let the hosts in for free on the stroke of halftime, but the score would
remain 3-0 at the break.
Bustamente started the second half as he had finished the first, causing trouble for the visitors
with his runs down the left and forcing a good save out of Shutler in the 52nd minute. The
introduction of Simeon Okoro at halftime changed the game completely, his pace and ability to
commit multiple defenders at once created openings for his teammates.
The visitors began to get control of the game again close to the hour mark, with a great
counterattack fizzling out on the final pass and then with a Sam Golan header producing a fine
save by Martin. Finally, in the 63rd minute the hosts would get one back. Kessler was the man
to finish, no more than he deserved for his willingness to get forward from the back after a great
slip ball from Campbell Brickhouse. Just as Charlottesville’s subs had changed the game to this
point, United’s subs with fifteen-odd minutes to play settled the match back down in their favor.
The home side continued to create chances, but most were from the edge of the box and none
really troubled Shutler.
The final whistle came as a bit of a relief to the visitors, who had absorbed quite a bit of pressure
over the last twenty minutes of the match but came away with a thoroughly deserved victory.
“Deserved the win, defensively interesting at times but great up front so our forwards did a lot to
win the game for us,” said United boss Brian Welsh after the match. “Their subs were good at
halftime, but our changes were good as well.”
Garuba’s brace earned him Man of the Match honors, and he shared his thoughts on the match.
“Definitely a good rebound after three losses, gets us back on track for the playoffs,” Garuba
United return home to play FC Frederick on Wednesday, while Charlottesville face FC
Baltimore Christos on June 29th.
Photo Credit: Connor Lee/Northern Virginia United FC