By Gabriel Glynn-Habron/Syracuse FC
Syracuse FC hosted their first home game of the 2023 campaign, welcoming Valeo FC to Onondaga Community College’s Lazer Field on June 3rd. It was a big matchup in the North Atlantic Division as both teams were looking for their first win of the season. SFC entered the contest with a 0-1-2 record, while Valeo hadn’t even managed a draw at 0-0-3.
Right from the jump Valeo FC retained possession, playing solidly from the back thanks to Mark Huynh who often acted as a midfield pivot for the Massachusetts squad. Valeo FC was able to put pressure on the SFC half, however, the Syracuse defense looked comfortable absorbing the attack.
Syracuse FC defenders Conor McGoldrick and Dylan Killian dealt with the Valeo offense well, winning multiple aerial duels and keeping the ball away from the front of the net. Their defensive prowess led to multiple counterattacking opportunities for SFC. Syracuse striker Mupenzi Irakiza was left with a majority of the forward responsibilities, helping to link play and make runs when SFC got possession.
After an even first 30 minutes, Valeo FC earned a dangerous free kick right outside of the box, the first real opportunity for either team to get on the scoresheet. Valeo’s Marcus Viera curled a right-footed shot over the wall but was denied by a leaping save from Oleksandr Perets.
While Valeo FC failed to capitalize on their first goal scoring opportunity, SFC took full advantage of theirs. Minutes after Viera’s free kick, SFC earned one of their own on the other side of the field. With the ball positioned about 15 yards back from the corner of the 18-yard box, Conor McGoldrick fired home a header from a lofted cross to give SFC a 1-0 lead before halftime.
Coming out of the break, Valeo once again retained the lion’s share of the ball, however, both teams showed strong attacking prowess. Halftime substitute Taj Jensen proved pivotal for VFC, immediately making an impact in the center of the midfield.
In the 53rd minute Valeo was awarded a penalty after contact in the box was whistled by the referee. Despite missing a golden opportunity in the first half, Valeo’s Viera calmly stepped up and converted the penalty. This brought the teams level at 1-1.
For the rest of the second half the game was decidedly more open, with each club having multiple scoring chances. Syracuse substitutes Michael Lantry and Johann Bratge were particularly threatening with Lantry controlling the pace and Bratge stretching the Valeo backline.
Just before the 85th minute, Syracuse once again earned a free kick in a dangerous spot on the field. With the ball placed near the sideline about 45 yards out from goal, SFC launched a driven ball that was safely corralled by Valeo FC goalkeeper Marvyn Dorchin. However, the referee pointed to the penalty spot after a Syracuse player went down in the box, a similar play that led to Valeo’s penalty kick in the first half.
Syracuse’s Michael Lantry was tasked with taking the penalty as the two teams entered the last 10 minutes of the contest. Lantry swiftly rolled a shot into the bottom corner, sending the keeper flying in the other direction, handing SFC a 2-1 lead.
Lantry’s goal would not be enough to give Syracuse their first win of the season. Following multiple failed clearances by SFC on a corner, Valeo began to mount sustained pressure in front of Perets’ goal. Valeo had a variety of shots blocked by defenders before one grazed the bottom of the crossbar, bouncing off the ground directly into the path of Jensen whose point-blank header put the game at 2-2.
The final minutes of the game saw Valeo come on strong, but neither team was able to claim victory. Both teams are back in action on June 7. Syracuse FC has a date with the New York Shockers, while Valeo FC takes on Hartford City FC.
Photo Credit: Stuart Rotblat