The AFC Cleveland Royals outmatched Syracuse FC by a score of 2-0 on a beautiful night for soccer at Stan Skoczen Stadium in Independence, OH.
The Royals put immense pressure on their visitors all match, only putting away two goals but leaving joyful as the result has nearly eliminated the gap between themselves and the East Conference clubs they have been chasing for a spot in the NPSL playoffs.
Tom Beck continued his great run of form, notching another goal in what would be the deciding tally on the night for the Royals. NOOMA Man of the Match David Jordan also put in an excellent shift with a goal and assist of his own to send AFC Cleveland to its third consecutive victory.
The home side once again finished strong thanks to a flurry of second-half substitutions who contributed fresh legs and more offensive opportunities as their opponents looked for an equalizer. Substitutes Lolo Karpeh, Ben Truax, and Gianluca DiFranco all combined for great offensive chances until the final moments of a match, including a disallowed goal from Truax after the forward was judged offside on a pass from DiFranco.
Syracuse FC’s comeback hoped were dealt a significant blow in the 58th when Macain Spragling was issued a red card after a heated exchange following a foul. When the dust settled, Mike Derezic, Declan McGivern, and Yianni Sarris were given yellow cards.
This match also marks the third consecutive clean sheet for the Royals, and the first of the season for Anthony Flowers.
First Half Highlights
The Royals had an early 6th minute chance when Derezic played Cvecko through the Syracuse FC defense on the right edge of the goal area. Cvecko attempted a hopeful square pass in front of goal, but it was turned over the endline by an opposing defender. The ensuing corner kick was put into a dangerous area, but went untouched through heavy traffic.
In the 19th, Bell received a pass near the opponent’s endline, and shouldered a pass towards Cvecko while holding a defender back. The Royals right back’s shot was easily saved by Castle.
Cvecko’s ball into the box in the 22nd caused Syracuse FC goalkeeper Pat Castle to make a last-gasp punch on the ball to keep it out of danger. Cvecko’s cross was played just beyond the foot of Bell, which caught Castle off guard as the ball drifted towards goal.
Syracuse FC had a run of chances near the 30th, with the best chance coming from Callum Donnelly, who sprinted onto a lateral-moving ball and powered a shot towards Flowers. Though the shot was well-struck, Flowers corralled the ball hit directly to him.
Beck struck first in the 32nd with a header driven into the ground and past Castle. The opportunity began as Jordan made a touch past a Syracuse FC defender along the left sideline and advanced the ball into space. His soaring cross met beck making a run into the box before connecting near the penalty spot.
In the 35th Derezic played a central pass to Bell in the penalty area, who turned a defender and passed to Jordan for a hard, open shot that was ultimately caught by Castle.
Logan Roberts nearly turned in a headed shot for an equalizer in the 38th after a lofted cross from teammate Jacob Kohlbrenner. Roberts’ header soared well above the bar to end Syracuse’s best chance of the half.
While on the seat of his shorts, Beck flicked a pass through the Syracuse defensive line to an oncoming Sarris in the 40th, but Castle met him to the ball as it bounced out of play.
The Royals will consider themselves unlucky to not have extended their lead in stoppage time. Beck slid past his opponent to find Bell wide open in front of goal, but the club veteran’s shot was cleared at the goal line just before it entered the goal.
Second Half Highlights
An early second-half chance in the 50th saw Bell play both Jordan and Sarris into space. Jordan picked up the pass and opened himself up for a shot with a touch to the right. With a point-blank opportunity, Jordan placed a shot right of Castle, who just got his fingertips on the ball to misdirect it wide of the goalpost.
An eventful 58th minute saw a stoppage of play as the ref sorted through a skirmish between the two clubs after a foul was committed on Beck. The head referee issued a red card to Syracuse FC playmaker Macain Spragling and gave a yellow card to AFC Cleveland players Mike Derezic, Declan McGivern, and Yianni Sarris.
Jordan streaked down the left flank in the 66th before crossing the ball over to a sliding Beck. The cross was mere inches from connecting with Beck, but scooted beyond the Royals midfielder and out of play.
Jordan was finally rewarded for his efforts along the left side with a goal of his own while on the receiving end of a Karpeh cross in the 76th. Karpeh zoomed down the left flank and put his cross over Castle, connecting with the head of Jordan.
It looked like the Royals’ third goal of the match might have been scored in the 82nd on a counter attack opportunity, but the goal was called back as the assistant referee rose their flag for offside on the initial pass from DiFranco to Truax.
Truax weaved through three Syracuse FC defenders in the 88th en route to what looked like a third goal for the Royals. The shot would get past Castle but was cleared off the line at the last second by a member of the defense.