The much anticipated 2017 season opener did not disappoint as New Jersey Copa FC and Electric City Shock took part in an entertaining 1-1 draw Saturday night. In front of a standing room only crowd at Fitzpatrick Field, chances and fouls were frequent, but not goals as both keepers recorded several impressive saves throughout the game.
Copa FC had the better of the earlier opportunities, forcing Shock goalkeeper Brian Ehrlich into a low near post save in the first ten minutes. Ehrlich was called into action again a few minutes later, this time knocking down a strong long-range effort. Modou Sowe was first to rebound, but couldn’t get over the bouncing ball and his shot went over the bar.
Electric City got their break in the 21st minute. Matt Liotta took the ball on the right wing and played a big cross behind the Copa defense, Liam Harmon connected with the ball but only enough to knock it back across the goal. Jarrod Smalley reacted quickest and hammered home for the first Shock goal of the season. Smalley recounted, “I trusted [Harmon] to get the ball in the box. He did all the great work, I just finished it off.”
Just after the half hour mark Electric City were looking to increase their lead Smalley turned creator and he found his brother Brandon running up the middle of the field. Brandon took a nifty flick to get around a defender and smashed a left footed shot off the crossbar. Only a minute later, NJ Copa FC goalkeeper Matt Perrella made a good diving save to parry a shot from well outside the 18 out for a corner.
As the halftime whistle drew near, a Shock turnover gifted Kevin Veliz with a chance to score from 25 yards out. His shot was saved by Ehrlich, as was the rebound effort by Ryan Campbell. The third time was the charm for Copa FC as Raphael Araujo was able find the back of the net to level the score at 1-1.
The Shock were quick to respond however, as Brandon Smalley again had a shot hit the crossbar, this time it was a floated effort from the right wing.
The second half saw continued physical play but clear cut chances dried up. Ehrlich made a low diving save as Araujo was looking to get back on the scoresheet with 15 minutes remaining, but his best chance to win the game for Copa came in the 90th minute after his shot off a cross by Jonathon Firmino forced Ehrlich into a fingertip save at the near post. Both teams would leave a point on the night.
Goal scorer Jarrod Smalley was happy with the way the team played.
“We’re happy with the result. We played really well against a great side. “Obviously we were a bit disappointed not to come away with three points, I think my brothers hit the bar twice, we’ve hit the post. But it’s a great performance, and I think we’ve done really well.”
Head Coach Andy Laughane was encouraged by the team’s performance.
“I thought our guys made a very positive start to the NPSL season. They knew they were up against a quality opponent in NJ Copa FC and showed enthusiasm and looked together.”
Electric City’s next game is next Saturday, May 27th at Greater Binghamton FC. Kickoff is set for 6 pm.