By Ricky LaBlue/Virginia Beach City FC
Another day, another step towards normalcy.
Virginia Beach City FC returned to the pitch for the first time in nearly two years, playing Philadelphia Lone Star FC to a 1-1 draw in VB City FC’s first National Premier Soccer League match of the 2021 season.
VB City FC scored the equalizer in the 80th minute, thanks to a shot from Trevor Knight. VB City FC pushed several times in the final minutes but couldn’t score a winner.
“Tonight, they needed this,” said Virginia Beach City FC manager Samuel Barnett, who made his managerial debut with the club. “They needed that spark. They needed to go down, they needed to prove that they’re human and for them to show themselves they could come back. And from that point on, it was us because something went off in their heads.”
While the attack picked up towards the end of the match, the midfield and backline turned in an admirable defensive performance. Keeper CJ Coulson, who made six saves, was proud of the boys in front of him, especially since the team has only held three full practices with the entire roster available.
“One of the big things going into it was being able to communicate,” Coulson said. “Guys that we haven’t played with before, making sure we communicate, keep everybody compact, keep everybody in the right spaces and I thought we did a great job of that.”
Hosting one of Tidewater’s first sporting events since the shutdowns in March 2020 was not easy. Team president Steven Wagoner left Saturday’s match proud of the organization for putting on the game and continuing to serve the Hampton Roads community.
“The big thing for us was looking at our community, the fans, our youth academy, they all want to get back on the field,” Wagoner said. “This was a great opportunity to do that. These guys have been dying to play for two years.”
Saturday night’s game was a welcome sight for not just VB City FC fans, but for the players and coaches as well. They’ve been forced to put their careers on hold for 21 months, waiting for an opportunity to participate in the game they love yet again.
“It was great to get out on the field,” Coulson said. “Last summer was really unfortunate, but obviously there’s some rust there. These guys haven’t played in a year and a half and that was apparent tonight. We’ll keep working through it and shake that rust off.”
As the players worked to get their legs back, Barnett focused on turning his debut game with VB City FC into a positive. One of the biggest takeaways from Saturday night’s game was how confident VB City FC is in Barnett as the club’s leader.
“(Barnett) is a fantastic person,” Wagoner said. “He’s done a fantastic job on the youth side and the amateur side with our club and he was also involved with the MLS academy before coming to us. I think very highly of him and I’m excited to have him involved.”
Virginia Beach City FC hosts Philadelphia Lone Star again on Sunday, which will serve as the second of three matches the two clubs will play this season. Sunday’s match starts at 2:30 pm at Norfolk Collegiate School and tickets can be purchased online on VB City FC’s website. Be sure to get your tickets now to see VB City FC’s return to the pitch.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Payne & Grace McGhee