By Tyler Lewin
The Mid-Atlantic Conference Championship saw Annapolis Blues FC play host to Alexandria Reds on a warm, muggy Saturday night.
Gordon Bernlohr scored the first goal for the Blues in the 30th minute to break the scoreless tie. At midfield, Jacob Murrell tackled Reds defender Matias Hendi before sprinting down the right side of the field. Then, when Murrell outran Mudi Jagha, he hoisted the ball beyond the advancing Reds goalkeeper and found Bernlohr’s feet. Bernlohr then took a touch and put it into the open goal. The first half saw three yellow cards given out, one to Jagha and another to Rafael Machado-Esteves of the Reds, while Jackson Ruckman drew the Blues’ first yellow card.
After tripping Seni Joseph at the top of the box early in the second half, Ruckman was given his second yellow card, leaving the Blues with 10 men for the remainder of the match. The wall stopped the ensuing free kick, preventing the Reds from having any more chances to attack. The game became increasingly physical as it went on. In the 62nd minute, Andrew Schug was shown a yellow card for his foul at the top of the box.
In the 65th minute, the Reds tied the game. Pat Kakayira passed the ball to Chris Barnard as he ran down the right side of the field, and Barnard’s low shot beat Griffin Hemmindinger at the near post. The Reds were awarded a penalty kick in the 83rd minute. Barnard smoothly rolled his shot into the bottom left corner after advancing to the spot.
As the second half came to a close, Murrell tied the score for the Blues. Miles Lam took a throw-in from the far side of the field that Jagha headed away. Nick Conklu had no chance when the attempted clearance landed at Murrell’s feet on the edge of the 18-yard box. Murrell then hammered home the first-time volley into the bottom left corner of the goal.
The Reds were down to nine men in the 116th minute after Kevin Ventura. Since neither team could score the game-winning goal, a penalty shootout would be used to settle the outcome. As both sides battled back and forth, the Blues would ultimately prevail. Daniel Ankrah’s low struck shot in the second round was saved by Hemmindinger. Lam’s strike in the fourth round was saved as he went to the bottom right. However, Hemmindinger made another save after the miss. The Blues won the Mid-Atlantic Conference Final after Murrell took his turn, slamming it into the bottom left corner.
The Annapolis Blues will next play on Friday, July 21 in the East Region Semifinals.
Photo Credit: Fincham Photography