Asheville City SC avenged an earlier defeat in Knoxville with a 2-1 victory over Emerald Force SC at Memorial Stadium thanks to a Cameron Saul brace.
The Blues dominated the previous meeting with a 17 to four shot advantage, but it was Knoxville who found the net twice to walk away with all three points. Asheville City made certain this match would be different.
It took only seconds for Corentin Da Mutten to find himself near the box for the Blues’ first shot of the match. The Asheville City attack created more chances in the first 10 minutes but couldn’t find the opening goal.
In the 24th minute, Frank Rosenwald found space in the box and headed a ball on goal, forcing an athletic save from the Knoxville goalkeeper. The Blues were playing dominantly, much like they had in Tennessee, and they seemed worried they wouldn’t be able to find a goal this time either.
But in the 27th minute Cameron Saul gave Asheville City that long-anticipated goal with a succulent strike that found the bottom right corner. The Blues found themselves in front for the first time since the 1-0 win on May 26 against the Atlanta Silverbacks.
The lead would last only minutes however, as the Emerald Force lasered in an unstoppable shot from distance to even the score. Unphased by the goal, the Asheville City attack got back to work. Rosenwald almost headed in the Blues’ second goal, but a great reactionary save from the Knoxville goalkeeper kept the score level.
Asheville City was still looking for another goal in first half stoppage time and almost had it in sensational fashion as Nathan Watt bicycle kicked one just inches above the bar. The match went to the half even at 1-1 but the Blues were dominating in every way.
The Asheville City attack continued to ramp up the pressure in the second half and appeared to have found a second goal in the 54th minute. Jamie Smith headed a ball down and Luke Matthews put it past the goalkeeper, but the linesman declared Smith offsides.
Raucous cheers came seconds later when Saul intercepted a poor Knoxville pass and easily slotted home his second goal on a breakaway. Saul imposed his will upon the match but was forced to come out in the 60th minute with an apparent injury.
Moments later an Emerald Force defender wrapped his arms around Lukas Joyner and brought him to the ground, prompting a yellow card from the referee. The match then took a somber turn when Knoxville’s Callum Doyle was accidentally struck by his own goalkeeper trying to clear a corner and collapsed inside the box. Doyle was carted off after nine minutes of medical attention and the match resumed.
Asheville City kept the ball away from the Emerald Force for the rest of the match, frustrating and suffocating any attempt to attack. After an agonizing nine minutes of stoppage time, the Blues came away with a gritty 2-1 victory.
Asheville City will have only one day of rest before hitting the road yet again to take on Inter Nashville FC on Saturday.
Contributor: Alex McLoughlin/Asheville City SC
Photo Credit: Shane Burke