By Virginia Beach City FC
If there was ever a tie that felt like a loss, this one would be that. Virginia Beach City FC capped the 2022 regular season with a 1-1 draw at home against rivals Northern Virginia United. VB City FC needed a win to host the semifinals at home but they were unable to finish the match off. They will now bounce back on Wednesday, July 13 against the same NVU side.
The first half saw both teams looking for the first breakthrough. For a while it looked like Virginia Beach City FC was going to have the best of the chances. In the 12th minute, the home team was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. It was forward Mikael Ndjoli standing over it and had the shot gone in, it would have broken the internet. The shot curled up and over the wall and narrowly missed the upper 90, zipping wide.
In the 25th minute, Northern Virginia United forward Carter Berg barreled through the Virginia Beach City FC midfield, unleashing a shot at CJ Coulson who stood firm to parry it away. Ndjoli picked up a pass from Sheriff Secka. He wound up a shot and ripped a ball at NVU goalkeeper Altan Murray who could only punch it away to safety.
In the 29th minute, Ndjoli danced on the ball in front of Northern Virginia defenders and sped off for a break on goal, drawing a foul from a late defender. Secka stood over it this time, having at it over the wall but just dipping down and into a cradling goalkeeper.
In the 31st minute, Virginia Beach City FC were linking up beautifully. They had just finished a 10-pass sequence before a defender knocked it out for a throw-in on their first contact with the ball. A long throw by Puerto Rico international Eli Carr went to Joel Albritton and then on to Prince Idornigie, Ndjoli, and back to Idornigie. Rutkauskas was next before going back to Carr, and it finally came to Liam Moore out wide. James Madison University’s Moore swung a cross across field just a little too far for Albritton who tracked it down with a sliding save to keep it in play. The ball found soon-to-be Virginia Military Institute defender Arnold Rutkauskas 26 yards out from goal. Rutkauskas lifted his head and saw his opportunity, but the curling shot at goal was collected by Murray. The 19-pass play all came crashing down. Another 16 minutes went by with not much else to report on headed into halftime.
The second half eventually began, and it was NVU putting points on the board first. On the back half of a counterattack, NVA sent a ball into the box from the right wing. The ball hit a diving Alexander Moody in the head, who was trying to clear the play for Virginia Beach City FC, and skipped through for Berg who tapped it in near post for the lead in the 52nd minute.
But just a few minutes later it was Ndjoli leveling it for his particular shade of blue. The play began with Moore high pressing for the ball at midfield and forcing the turnover. Moore slotted the pass for Secka down the sideline who took it down to the touch. Secka found his new friend in Ndjoli in the middle of the box for the game-tying goal. This marks Ndjoli’s fourth goal in as many games. The match quieted down from there after as it was actually Northern Virginia who regained the momentum shortly after the tying goal. As the game drew on, Virginia Beach City FC’s ability to keep possession broke down. After a long half of unsuccessful longballs, fouls, and incomplete passes, it was looking done for the Trident Boys.
One last opportunity for Virginia Beach City FC in stoppage time would have the VB faithful hoping for a last-minute stunner. Secka brought down a failed clearance and shimmied and shook to find a way out of pressure before finding Ryan Mahon who passed off to Carr.
Then Carr was swallowed up by a tackle, pushing the ball out to Albritton. Albritton used his footwork to avoid two synchronous tackles and barged forward with the ball. Dodging a defender, Albritton carried on before being tackled, preventing a possible goal. It was a free kick for Virginia Beach City FC in stoppage time, just outside the 18-yard box. Ndjoli and Albritton stood over the ball. Ndjoli pushed the ball in front of Albritton who cracked a shot into the crowd of players. The rebound was guided out of bounds.
Virginia Beach City FC finished with a draw, but it felt like a loss.
Because Virginia Beach City FC couldn’t get the win, they will be forced to play on the road at the same Northern Virginia United on Wednesday. Alexandria Reds will play FC Frederick. The winners of both matches will continue to the conference final on Saturday, July 16.
Photos Courtesy of Virginia Beach City FC