Playing on the road after a two-game home stand, the Blues travelled to Atlanta to faceoff against the Southeast Conference leading Silverbacks. With hot temperatures and high humidity, Asheville City prepared for a grueling 90 minutes. In the stands, the South Slope Blues made their presence known early, cheering along their team while battling the heat. Kickoff ensued at 5 pm ET as the Blues sought their first NPSL win since May 27th.
In the begin stages of the match, the Silverbacks maintained a majority of possession and stayed on the ball, pressing into Asheville’s defending third. The Blues strategy throughout the match stayed consistent and easily noticeable from the first whistle. Under instruction from Coach Gary Hamel, Asheville City played a conservative offensive, pushing everyone back behind the ball besides striker Elma N’For. This strategy allowed the Blues to maintain a strong defensive hold on the game, control the tempo, and wait for their opportunity to strike. Biding their time, Asheville City fans watched and waited.
In the 27th minute, unfortunate circumstances lead to a go-ahead goal by Atlanta’s Dionysius Harmon. Finding a pass sent through the Ashville 16-yard box, Harmon sent a shot on goal that struck the leg of goalkeeper Parker Siegfried and continued its roll towards the net. Siegfried then secured the ball but the referee had awarded the goal.
As the match continued, the City found several offensive opportunities. Playing the ball forward, the attacking force of Deeley, Szalay and N’For pushed for an equalizer. At no point in the match did the Blues stop fighting for position or pride against the conference leaders. Finally in the 82nd minute, Christian Szalay received a long pass on the left wing. As Szalay looked up field, he found volt colored uniforms crashing the net. His pass curled towards the net and with one spectacular touch, Deeley volleyed an unstoppable shot into the goal. Asheville had found its equalizer but refused to be satisfied.
Minutes later, N’For added to his impressive inaugural resume. With Botfield gaining possession at midfield and lobbing a perfectly placed pass up to Szalay, the Blues looked for a game-sealing goal. Szalay then passed the ball off to N’For, who was immediately bulldozed from behind at the top of the box. The referee quickly awarded the penalty kick that N’For decided was his to take. In the 86th minute of the match, N’For’s strike beat the Atlanta keeper to his right and secured three points for the Blues.
With the victory, Asheville tightens the gap at the top of the table. Only three points outside of first, the City will surely look to win their next match at home against FC Carolina United. In their last match against United, N’For earned a hat trick and the victory in an exciting away match. Kickoff is set for Saturday July 1st at 7:30 pm at Memorial Stadium. Be sure to follow all social media platforms for standings updates and highlights throughout the season