FC Monmouth were unable to separate themselves from defending Keystone Conference champions New Jersey Copa FC in a 2-2 draw at Count Basie Park on Wednesday evening, bumping their record in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) up to 2-2-1.
“I told the guys I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said FC Monmouth head coach Brian Woods. “There’s no team that works harder than them. For us to get a draw against one of the premier teams in the NPSL, I couldn’t be happier with the way they performed and how hard they fought to get a result tonight.”
Less than fifteen minutes after kickoff, FC Monmouth edged themselves in front via a corner kick. Defender Matt Fryc, who returned to the side for the first time since the club’s season-opening game away at Atlantic City FC, rose above his marker and headed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Fryc, who started at right-back in his return, said. “The chance was there, and I just took it. I’ve been itching to get back ever since I was injured, so to be back and not feel any pain in my ankle is a good thing, I’m excited.”
NJ Copa FC equalized almost immediately through striker Raphael Araujo. After receiving a pass just outside of the penalty area, the forward shifted the ball onto his right foot and scored with a powerful strike across goal inside of the far post.
FC Monmouth put themselves back in the lead just three minutes later. After beating a trio of Copa players, defender Thomas Judge burst through midfield before sending a through ball in behind the defense. Forward Jordan Saling ran onto the pass and tapped the ball past the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net.
Though he has started every match in attack for Monmouth thus far season, last night’s goal was Saling’s first for the club.
“It’s amazing,” Saling added. “I’ve been frustrated, definitely. I wanted to get chances, haven’t been, been unlucky. But I got one. Hopefully I can continue, hopefully it keeps going.”
Moments before the conclusion of the first half, Copa equalized again. A slick passing move between Araujo and midfielder Jonathan Yazo saw defender Louis Silva smash a first-time effort across goal on the ground inside of the left post.
“I don’t think it [the goal] had an effect on the rest of the game,” said Woods. “I think at halftime the guys were fired up to make the adjustments that we made.”
Woods said that in the second half his team minimized Copa’s level of control in the middle area of the pitch, changing the course of the game for Monmouth.
The second half was much calmer in contrast to the first period of the match, but the last five minutes were eventful.
Two shots from Yazo came dangerously close to being a game-winning goal for the visitors. His effort from distance in the 88th forced goalkeeper Scott Weigel to make an athletic diving save to keep it out. FC Monmouth withstood the late pressure from Copa, and the match ended 2-2, with both sides earning a point.
Weigel was named the Professional Orthopaedic Associates Man of the Match for his six-save performance that kept his side in the game.
“I was really happy to keep getting the start,” Weigel concluded. “This experience means a lot to me. I learn every game, I’m trying to get better, and I’m glad that I could help the team out.”
“Without him [Weigel], it may have been a different story,” said Woods. “I thought some of the saves he made were key to the result.”
Contributor: Evan McMurtrie/FC Monmouth
Photo Credit: FC Monmouth