By Gabriel Glynn-Habron
Syracuse FC welcomed Kingston Stockade FC to Lazer Field for a meeting in the North Atlantic Conference on July 8. The match signaled the end of the regular season for both clubs. It was the third meeting between the two conference foes; the previous contest finished at 1-1 back in June. Kingston entered the game with a record of 6-2-1, while SFC stood at 0-5-4.
Kingston Stockade FC started the game strong, controlling the pace of play expertly. Long spells of possession allowed for Stockade fullbacks Liam Salmon and Joseph Dolan to press high up the field. Attacker Jared Juleau took advantage of the space created inside, often operating in the half spaces between the SFC midfield and defense.
Kingston earned a corner kick in the sixth minute after sustained pressure on the SFC goal. On the ensuing cross, Stockade defender Stefan Koroman flashed toward the near post, nodding a glancing header past Syracuse goalkeeper Andrew Taylor. The effort gave Kingston a 1-0 lead and marked the third time this season when Kingston had taken the lead in under ten minutes.
The Syracuse defense struggled to deal with the creativity of Juleau and fellow attacker Mateo Marra. The teammates linked up well in the middle of the park, repeatedly driving at the SFC backline and creating gaps. Just ten minutes after taking the lead, Juleau challenged Taylor again, launching an effort from 25 yards out. The SFC goalkeeper was up to the challenge, leaping to his right to push the ball out of play, limiting the Kingston advantage to one.
Syracuse became more comfortable on the counterattack as the first half progressed. The SFC left side was particularly effective when given the chance. Midfielders Isaac Borden and Conor Baird connected several times on 1-2 passes, stretching out the Kingston defense.
SFC’s biggest chance of the first half came in the 40th minute. After a Stockade corner kick, Syracuse striker Caio Hughes picked up the ball just outside of his own penalty area. The attacker sprinted past multiple opponents, racing up the left side of the field. Following some intricate build-up play in the midfield, Hughes lobbed a pass over the heads of the defense to Jake Pawlika. The midfielder calmly cut inside, but his subsequent shot was right at Stockade goalkeeper James Cintron. After the first 45 minutes Kingston was up 1-0.
Syracuse came out of the halftime break with energy and purpose. Head coach Jaro Zawislan made three attacking changes at half, inserting Johann Bratge, Scott Schuyler, and Caden Stafford into the match. The substitutes immediately made an impact, using their speed and fresh legs to strain the Kingston defense.
After a pass was rolled behind the Stockade backline, SFC’s Bratge hustled to get to the ball. Opening up his body as he approached the pass, the attacker swiftly slotted the ball past substitute goalkeeper Jaiden Pean. The shot put Syracuse back on level ground, tying the match at 1-1 in the 49th minute.
The goal provided a boost for Syracuse as the club began to look more confident. Syracuse defender Matthew Stasyuk and midfielders DJ Taylor and Riley Williams all played well in the second half. The trio repeatedly broke up play in the midfield, helping to spring SFC on the counterattack.
Despite Syracuse’s growing momentum it was the Stockade who would get back on the board. After forcing SFC to play out from the back, Kingston earned a penalty as an SFC defender lost the ball in the box and clipped a Stockade player on the heels. In the 60th minute, Kingston’s Marra stepped up to take the spot kick. The attacker stroked the ball into the left corner, sending Taylor the wrong way and putting Kingston up 2-1.
Kingston maintained possession for large portions of the second 45, oftentimes having all ten outfield players in Syracuse’s half. The Stockade center backs continuously played progressive passes and dribbled into the spaces in front of them, helping to create an immense amount of pressure on Taylor’s goal.
Syracuse was not without its chances. The speed of Bratge and Hughes regularly posed a threat on the counterattack. The pair connected on a beautiful near-post pass that put Bratge in front of the net in the 68th minute. The attacker maneuvered his way around one defender, but was quickly surrounded by a myriad of Stockade jerseys.
After failing to challenge Pean in net on several occasions, SFC would be presented with a golden opportunity in the 70th minute. During a corner kick, Syracuse defender Dylan Killian went down in the area after contact with a Stockade player. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, giving SFC a chance to level the game at 2-2. Syracuse’s Hughes was tasked with trying to equalize. The striker fired a low shot that looked like it was destined for the corner of the net, but Pean dove at full extension to his right to make the save.
The impressive stop retained the Stockade lead, and it would not be relinquished. Aside from a long-range effort from Stasyuk that hit the crossbar, Kingston would coast to a 2-1 victory.
The result gave Syracuse a final record of 0-5-5. Kingston ended the regular season at the top of the conference standings with a 7-2-1 record.
Photo Credit: Rich Images Photography