By Cade Cracas
On Wednesday, June 14, Akron City FC hosted Erie Commodores FC at Green Street Stadium for a midseason conference contest. Everything was set for an evenly matched contest with perfect conditions for both teams to play in.
Heading into the contest, all eyes were on Akron as they looked to bounce back following a nail-biting loss to the Commodores the last time the two parties met, but in the end, this time it was a 5-0 win for Akron at home.
“We went on the road, and they had a big crowd, that definitely helped them,” said Akron’s Ryan Kingsford. “We had our crowd, and we know if we have the fans behind us, we can pull off a win.”
The last time the two teams played each other was in Erie back on June 4. Akron and Erie battled against one another for the entirety of the contest, but a late goal sealed the fate of the outing as the Commodores snuck away with three points, leaving Akron heartbroken.
After the loss, Akron City head coach Andy Hoggarth reflected on and highlighted the team’s need to finish in the final third at a higher rate.
“Obviously it’s tough to take positives away after losing in injury time,” Hoggarth said. “I think it comes down to finishing. We had three or four opportunities to execute with the final ball, and we needed to finish in the final third. We need to get better at that.”
When the contest began on Wednesday, it looked as though Akron was poised to find the opening blow.
That would indeed happen in the second minute with a corner kick from Akron. The ball would be perfectly sent into the box, and Kingsford headed it directly into the back of the net, giving the team a 1-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later in the ninth minute, Akron looked poised to double their lead as Colin Biros struck the ball towards the goal before Erie was able to save it and shut down the chance.
However, the biggest blow of the first half would occur in the 23rd minute as Akron’s Josef Paulus was given a red card, putting the team down to just 10 men for the remaining 67 minutes of the game.
For the remainder of the first half, Akron and Erie both mounted attempts at finding a goal in the first half, but neither was able to. Both teams’ defenses were the highlight, and both goalkeepers had incredible saves.
Heading into halftime, Akron remained ahead by a single goal, but down a man, the door was cracked open for Erie.
At the halftime break, Hoggarth discussed what the team needed to fix and clean up in the second half.
“It is huge that we were able to find a goal early,” Hoggarth added. “That gives us something to work through and protect. We need all the guys to put a shift in. We cannot make any mistakes.”
Well, Akron would make very little mistakes in the second half, and that showed by the scoreline.
Akron would then go on to score four more goals in the second half.
The second goal of the contest came in the 51st minute as Will Jackson rose up to find a heading goal. The free kick came after a challenge came from Erie that resulted in a foul being called.
Erie needed to then bounce back and find themselves an opening to keep the contest competitive, but in the 59th minute Kingsford scored off of a penalty kick. That goal would be the blow that finished off any sort of momentum that Erie could muster.
“We found our chemistry today,” said Kingsford. “Even though we were down a guy, we battled hard.”
Just 11 minutes later, Erie’s defense would fall short yet again as they allowed Akron’s attacking group to slide past them and Dyson Clapier added on the fourth goal of the contest.
After the fourth goal was scored, Hoggarth decided to make pivotal substitutions, bringing Brendan Swann, Dan Baumgartner, and Levi Stephens into the game.
Moments after being substituted in, Stephens was tackled into the bleachers and the opposing Erie player was given a yellow card. That foul would set up a free kick 20 yards outside of the 18, leading to the fifth and final goal of the game.
The ball would be played cleanly to Sam Tojaga who placed the ball past the goalkeeper, cementing the contest with a 5-0 scoreline.
“If someone switches it on at halftime, I do not believe they would think we were down a man,” Hoggarth continued. “Once we click, it is going to happen. Tonight, we were able to click.”
With the win, Akron keeps their hopes alive as they move up towards the middle of the conference table as they now have seven points on the season and a 2-1-5 record. On the other hand, Erie suffers their fifth loss of the season, now with an overall record of 3-0-5 and nine points.
The next time these two teams step back out onto the pitch comes on Saturday, June 14 for Akron, while the Commodores have an extra period of rest as their next outing comes on Saturday, June 24.
Akron will take on Michigan Rangers FC at home, while the Commodores will continue a three-game road spree as they travel to take on Carpathia FC.
“We had a draw Friday and a win today,” Hoggarth concluded. “It helped wipe off our season goal differential. We will have to make a couple changes heading into Saturday. We have the squad we have and believe that our players can come in and get the job done.”
Photo Credit: Patrick Weber