By David Rohe/Tallahassee SC
Tallahassee Soccer Club returned home on Saturday to host Pensacola FC. The Battle Lions were coming off a difficult loss at Florida Roots in Panama City the previous week, but had a chance to earn some points toward the 850 Cup. Things didn’t look good early on with Pensacola jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first half, but a second-half equalizer gave Tallahassee an important point at home.
There were some new and returning faces for Tallahassee with the return of team captain Johnny Fitzgerald and the introduction of new goalkeeper Bosco Pery. Head coach Joshua Bruno employed a 4-2-3-1 formation against the visiting 59ers.
The Battle Lions had some trouble getting into the match for the first 15 minutes, and Pensacola took advantage of a free kick just outside the area. Azahrias Ali hit a golazo for the 59ers in the 18th minute to put the visitors into the lead.
Following the goal, the Battle Lions were able to grow into the match and push forward into Pensacola’s half of the field. Tallahassee managed to create some chances with five shots, but only one on target. Pensacola had the better of the half with nine shots and five on target. The 59ers also earned four corners to Tallahassee’s three. The Battle Lions did win one stat, earning four yellow cards while Pensacola earned zero.
As the second half started, Tallahassee was able to hold possession better and get on the front foot. The Battle Lions played a bit of the ”kick it up the pitch and hope” in the attack. It did result in a series of chances around the 60th minute, but Tallahassee was unable to capitalize.
Pensacola finally earned a yellow card in the 65th minute. On the ensuing free kick the ball rattled around the box before Sy Fontenot took a close-range shot. The keeper made the save but it bounced back to the head of Fitgerald, and the Battle Lions equalized in the 69th minute.
“It was a great moment where Sy and Johnny were able to combine out wide,” Bruno said. “Sy broke down the right side and he cut the ball back and Johnny had a great first strike and the goalie made a really good save. But Johnny was quickest to be proactive to the rebound and the smallest guy on the field scores the header. Stadium erupted, it was a great moment, a very well- executed goal, something we’ve actually been working on in training. So it was nice to see it come to fruition on the field.”
Pensacola was awarded a penalty in the 77th minute but Pery made a huge save on the penalty kick to keep the Battle Lions level.
“It was a game-changing momentum moment, where had we been down 2-1 it’s really hard to fight back with not a whole lot of time left,” Bruno added. “For him to make that save shows the quality he is and what we expect of him.”
Tallahassee took the energy from that play and pressed forward into the attack again. In the 84th minute Fontenot had a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper, but Pensacola keeper Mark McMillan made an excellent kick save.
The Battle Lions kept up the pressure the remainder of the half, and in the sixth minute of stoppage Tallahassee had one last free kick opportunity to earn the win, but were unable to capitalize.
“The way we started the match being down 1-0, and not really having much of the game in the first half,” Bruno concluded. “Coming out in the second half and really putting them on their back foot and getting the goal. Having more of the chances, actually kind of disappointed we maybe didn’t walk away with the win. I think we probably deserved to. But at the end of the day a point is a point in this league we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Tallahassee Soccer Club is back in action against Southern States SC next Saturday at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee.
Photo Credit: Josh Limburg/Tallahassee SC