By New York Shockers
The New York Shockers were able to get a much needed 3-0 win over Valeo FC on Saturday night at Afrim’s Sports Park. With this game determining what teams would compete in the playoffs, the stakes were high and the crowd was big and loud, but the pressure was no problem for the Shockers. With only a draw needed, this result clinched them as the three seed in the North Atlantic Conference and with that, at least one more game for them to play this season and a chance to defend their conference title. This was also the fourth consecutive home shutout for New York, only allowing a single goal at home to Kingston Stockade FC on opening day.
A physical start to the game along with a couple chances on long balls from each side made it difficult for either team to get a stronghold on the game. Cleon Pryce almost got Valeo on the board inside the first 10 minutes of the game, getting on the end of a long ball, putting several moves on the Shockers defense, and finally putting it just to the left of Ryan Henning’s goal. This would turn out to be the best chance of the game for Valeo with this being the necessary wake-up call for the Shockers with their season on the line.
Thomas Sams understood the stakes at hand, doing his part by getting the Shockers their first home goal of the season in the 17th minute. After a free kick was awarded about 30 yards out, Adel Cekic put a great ball into Valeo’s box and a couple of deflections got the ball right to the feet of Sams, with a wide-open chance on the Valeo net. He was able to react very quickly and put it just beyond the diving Valeo goalkeeper Drew Berry, ending the Shockers goalless drought at home in 376 minutes.
The importance of this game for both sides led to the next sequence becoming even more physical, with several big challenges, including two yellow cards. The first one was issued to Valeo’s Gabriel Padilla in the 27th minute for a late challenge. The second one was given to Berry in the 36th minute doing everything he could to prevent a second goal as the last defender, but he was forced to concede a penalty. It ended up working out for Berry and Valeo as Wisdom Ishaya was not able to convert the spot kick.
Sams would get his second of the game a few moments later in the 40th minute, giving the Shockers a 2-0 lead and some breathing room. Once again, off a free kick from Adel Cekic, he was able to get to the far post, go airborne, and smash it into the top right corner of the net. The half ended with the same scoreline with this result being enough to advance.
The physicality continued in the second half with Valeo playing with desperation, not wanting to see their season end. A couple of good chances from Tshazi Kamau and Adbul Barrie were not able to be converted. The high press forced more turnovers from the Shockers as well as giving Valeo more possession. This also led to a couple New York counter attacks, including the third goal of the game for the Shockers in the 70th minute. Just a few minutes after being subbed on, Yusif Okine was able to get on the end of a Shockers clearance and ran in alone on the goalkeeper. He was able to get a shot off and get his rebound, desperately poking the ball into the net and winning a 50/50 challenge against the last Valeo defender.
The physicality peaked in the 78th minute with a big collision between the Shocker’s John Mendrysa and Valeo’s Pateh Laye. Both players received red cards, reducing the game to ten players a side. Another yellow card was given in the 83rd minute to Arthur Teixiera of Valeo, due to a desperation tackle. That was not meant to be though as the game ended in the Shocker’s favor, and the season ended for Valeo.
The New York Shockers ended their regular season with 13 points and a 3-3-4 record. Their playoff season continues on the road on Wednesday, July 12 against Hartford City FC. The winner will travel to Kingston, NY on July 15 to face Kingston Stockade FC for the North Atlantic Conference title.
Photo Credit: Amber Yarter and Abby Taylor