Saturday, May 20, 2017 was a day of historic firsts for Syracuse FC in its inaugural NPSL match: first ceremonial kickoff, first starting XI lineup, first save, and first goal.
After the completion of the match’s 90 minutes, the final score read Syracuse FC 1 – AFC Cleveland 5. SFC finished with six shots and seven saves, while the Royals finished with 13 shots and two saves. But the final tally does not properly reflect the energy of the SFC team and the atmosphere in the stadium. The match brought in one of the largest crowds ever at Onondaga Community College’s David W. Murphy Field, with an attendance of 2,037 on a beautiful, mild May evening.
After AFC Cleveland, in blue jerseys, took the opening kick, SFC, in all black, brought offensive pressure early. This pressure resulted in two corners within the match’s opening three minutes. SFC’s ball possession later resulted in a through ball to Jerjer Gibson, who was called offside, in a potential early scoring opportunity.
In the sixth minute, AFC Cleveland put the Royals up 1-0 on a goal scored by Admir Suljevic that was set up by a cross from Brian Potocnik.
SFC goalkeeper Pat Castle was active throughout the entire match and made his first save of the season on a shot by Suljevic in the 12th minute. Just one minute later, Castle made another save off of a Royals corner to keep the score intact.
The first substitution of SFC’s history was made in the 20th minute when Logan Roberts replaced Jerjer Gibson at the forward position.
History was made in the 33rd minute when a penalty kick was given against Coletun Long of the Royals on Slavisa Ubiparipovic in the box. Ubiparipovic converted the penalty to give SFC their first-ever goal and tied the game at 1-1 after Royal’s goalkeeper Alexander Ivanov guessed and dove the wrong way.
Throughout the first 45 minutes, SFC played solid team defense against the Royals offensive pressure, and that can be attributed to Castle and the starting back four: Ben Ramin, Domenico Vitale, Ryan Matthews, and Sam Daniel.
After a tightly contested first half, the second half began with early offensive pressure from the Royals. Castle continued his good play in goal with three early saves on strong shots by Suljevic and Vinny Bell.
Castle was not able to stop Bell’s shot off a cross from Chris Cvecko in the 51st minute that allowed the Royals to retake the lead, 2-1. The Royals found the net again in the 57th minute when Michael Derezic was able to convert a physical goal near the back post after colliding with Castle on the play.
In the 62nd minute, Domenico Vitale committed a foul leading to a Royals free kick. In peculiar fashion, Dan Koniarczyk converted the kick as players from both teams debated the call, leaving many spectators unaware that the Royals had extended their lead until the scoreboard posted the 4-1 tally.
Offensively for SFC, Bo Jelovac and Roberts pressed the issue up front in the second half, playing with both strength and athleticism. In a sequence that began in the 71st minute, Jelovac was able to dribble past three Royals defenders and win a corner. From the corner, Roberts displayed some of his own dribbling skills and was able to get a shot at goal that rocketed off the goalpost.
In the 77th minute, SFC made a double change when Marcello Palucci and Ma’Cain Spragling entered the game for goalscorer Ubiparipovic and midfielder Stefanos Stamoulacatos. SFC continued their offensive push into the 82nd minute when two powerful shots on goal by Palucci and Adnan Bakalovic forced Ivanov to make quality saves. The final substitute for SFC was Callum Donnelly in the 86th minute, replacing Jelovac.
Royals substitute Reymar Klochko added a long-range goal in the 86th minute to extend the Royals lead to its final 5-1.
“First off, it was a great crowd and atmosphere for our inaugural match, and our supporters were fantastic,” said Head Coach/GM Matt Tantalo. “Obviously the result was not what we wanted, but it’s a starting point for us, and we will get better from it. We have been together just a short time and it showed in many ways. It’s all a process, and we will get there.”
SFC’s next inaugural season match will be against the Rochester Lancers on Friday, May 26th at 7:30 pm at OCC’s David W. Murphy Field.
“We have a good week of training ahead,” said Tantalo. “We’re looking forward to hosting the Rochester Lancers on Friday night and earning our first three points.”