By Olin Gay/First State FC
First State FC took the lead after impressive goals from Benjamin Asante and Mamadou Diombera. Despite a first-half red card, Northern Virginia United came back and won the game 4-2 in the Midnight Riders’ season opener. It was the first game under newly promoted head coach Hans Van Zutphen.
After an opening rain delay, the pace started fast with several attacks on both sides. A corner kick in the seventh minute landed beyond First State goalkeeper Gianluca Cersosimo. After a scramble, it was cleared into a swift counterattack for Asante, ending in a goal kick. There were a few strong challenges on both sides and a couple of yellow cards as the pace slowed considerably.
The best initial chances for both teams came around the 20th minute. First, the Midnight Riders picked up the ball at the halfway line and passed swiftly through the NVU backline, launching a low-driven shot. The goalkeeper barely held on and collected the ball; the ensuing kick launched a counter and forced two saves from First State. The pressure continued, and NVU eventually found the breakthrough in the 24th minute. A flicked ball over the head of the goalkeeper was headed down into the ground and bounced in amongst a crowd in the box.
In the 33rd minute, a second yellow card was issued to Marcos Villeda, leaving Northern Virginia down a player. Their tactics would shift to defending deeper and launching counters. The second half opened with the Midnight Riders keeping the ball deep in NVU’s side of the pitch, and a turnover in possession led to an ambitious left-footed shot from Asante from well outside the box. The goalkeeper could not respond to the swerving ball in time, and the tying goal sent up a roar inside Abessinio Stadium.
10-man Northern Virginia continued to clear away pressure from several attacks, and Mamadou Diombera eventually found First State FC’s go-ahead goal in the 49th minute. A swift attack, including a deep pass through the center of NVU’s defense, ended with a curled finish from near the penalty spot. With the home team seemingly in control, a surprise counter from Northern Virginia opened the Midnight Riders’ defense and scored to Cersosimo’s left side in the 62nd minute. Only a few minutes later, NVU took the lead on a similar play. This time it was along the left side and cutting across the box, finishing in the lower right corner.
Despite long stretches of possession, First State could not get a tying goal, and Northern Virginia continued to finish clinically when in possession. A fourth goal came from a cross lifted over the last First State defender, and NVU passed the ball into the net to complete the scoring 4-2.
First State FC is sponsored by local Delaware businesses Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists (DOS), IncNow, Gonser and Gonser Law, and Elite PT. The Midnight Riders’ next home game is June 7th against FC Frederick. Tickets for the game are available at tickets.firststatefc.com.
Photo Credit: Type One Photography