FC Monmouth avenged a previous loss to Atlantic City FC in their weather-shortened home opener by a score of 1-0 at Count Basie Park on Saturday evening, improving their record in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) to 1-2-0.
“I thought the players’ attitudes and mentality going into the match was excellent,” said FC Monmouth head coach Brian Woods. “The atmosphere the owners were able to establish in our first-ever home match contributed mightily to the players’ edge that they had coming out of the dressing room.”
FC Monmouth kicked off their home opener with the opening goal just four minutes into the match. FC Monmouth midfielder and captain John Antunes scored the club’s first-ever goal with a thunderous right-footed strike from outside of the penalty area.
“I got the ball in a perfect opportunity between the midfield and the defense,” Antunes said. “My forwards and wingers were making runs that were making the defense retreat backwards towards the goal, and that gave me the opportunity to have the space to take a shot. I was very confident before I took the shot.”
Both Antunes and Woods said that during the week leading up to the match, they spoke about the midfielder’s need to take more risks as an attacker and to try to score more goals.
“That goal was all him and his desire to get to goal,” Woods added. “I’m happy for him and for the club to get the first goal ever.”
The players had barely finished celebrating the goal before a crack of thunder interrupted the match, causing a delay. As the players and fans searched for cover, it began to rain heavily. Lightning bolts littered the sky, and it seemed that the match would not continue.
After a 90-minute delay, the match restarted, and those who stuck around returned to their seats.
“I don’t think we had as much of a problem with weather as AC [Atlantic City] had,” Woods continued. “We are a young and excited group. We were happy to get back out there and start playing. It’s nice to have youth and in this situation, I believe it worked to our advantage.”
A few minutes after the restart, Atlantic City forward Sidney Rivera, who scored against Monmouth in their previous meeting, was forced off of the pitch due to injury. Throughout the first half, FC Monmouth midfielder George Akampeke and Atlantic City defender Nick Hanuscin were also substituted after sustaining injuries.
The first half ended with the hosts leading courtesy of Antunes’ goal. Atlantic City did their best to answer back after the weather delay, but FC Monmouth goalkeeper Scott Weigel kept them at bay with his five saves.
“I saw us start to come together as a team for the first time,” Woods concluded. “They fought for one another and you can see that in their commitment to the match from the start.”
During halftime, the winner of the FC Monmouth Mascot Contest was announced. Helena LeCompte and Art Teacher Wendy Witlieb of Roosevelt Public School’s “Raptors” design won the most number of votes.
Less than five minutes into the second half, a crash of thunder caused another weather delay. After time went on and the thunder and lightning showed no signs of stopping, the referee sounded the whistle, ending the match prematurely.
Due to NPSL rules, FC Monmouth was awarded the 1-0 win although the match ended with just over 48 minutes gone on the clock.
“The two previous games it looked like we were just getting used to each other, but this game we looked like a family,” Antunes said.
FC Monmouth’s highly-anticipated home opener was capped off with the club’s first goal and victory. Monmouth will be looking to replicate the result, atmosphere, and 400-500 attendance from their home opener this Saturday when they welcome Hershey FC to Count Basie Park at 6 pm.
“The support was well-needed,” Antunes commented. “All of the fans, all of the people from the organization that help us out, and all the coaches really helped us. It felt like a good atmosphere, the vibe was great, and I really appreciate all of the support.”
Contributor: Evan McMurtrie/FC Mommouth
Photo Credit: FC Monmouth