By Georgia Storm
Georgia Storm opened the 2023 NPSL season in front of a packed stadium against the 2022 Southeast Conference Champions Appalachian FC. Georgia Storm returned to the University of West Georgia for its home matches in the 2023 edition of the NPSL. On the broadcast call was Jason Longshore of Atlanta United and Soccer Down Here.
Appalachian Head Coach Dale Parker returned to face off with the Storm for the third year running. The Storm has high expectations for the squad this year. The Storm’s ever-growing supporters’ group, The Stormchasers, had a huge presence at the match.
The Storm took the lead in the 18th minute off a corner from Spencer van Buskirk. He placed an in-swinging corner that an Appalachian player flicked towards the back post, and Storm captain Andy Elkins headed back across and after a second knock down, Haris Osmanbasic smashed a right-foot volley that deflected into the back of the net to open Storm’s scoring account in 2023.
Appalachian, ever dangerous on their long throws, flicked a header off the bar deep into the first half. Right before halftime, Osmanbasic delivered an inch-perfect cross that Lucas Bedleg missed just wide. The Storm went into halftime leading 1-0.
As the second half started Appalachian FC made some tactical, shape changes that put the Storm on the back foot. After a good press on midfield, the Storm played a poor back pass that led to a 1v1 where the Appalachian player was brought down for a penalty in the 58th minute. Max Landau converted the penalty kick to the bottom left to bring things even at 1-1.
As the game entered the final minutes, the Storm pressed hard for a winner including a good press, followed by a van Buskirk strike denied by a great save from Appalachian’s goalkeeper. Moments later, the Storm’s Luke Holmes smashed a strike from 25 yards that just hit the outside of the post. Late in the match, as space opened with both sides tiring, Appalachian slid their striker in with Storm’s Greg Stratton burying himself to recover with an all-important tackle to keep it even in Carrollton, Georgia on the Storm’s Youth Night with the final 1-1.
The Storm moves into a tie for 3rd with Appalachian after the first week of matches. Next week, the Storm hosts Georgia Revolution while Appalachian FC hosts Apotheos FC.
Storm Head Coach Josh Bivens shared his thoughts on the match.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium with Storm youth players and fans providing all their support for an electric performance,” Bivens said. “We felt hard done by the result as we felt we deserved to win on our performance. Credit to Appalachian and Dale for making it difficult for us to break them down and score. We can’t wait for the rematch in two weeks away to them.”
Storm Associate Head Coach Sasan Lak also reflected on his team’s performance.
“We will train hard this coming week to improve areas we saw today,” Lak said. “After we analyze the film, we will put in a full week and look forward to improve on this performance next week when we host GA Revs.”
Photo Credit: Matthew Dingle