Erie Commodores FC secured their first win of the season with a 2-1 road win against defending NPSL National Champions AFC Cleveland Sunday afternoon at Stan Skoczen Stadium.
The match did not start well for the Royals, with midfielder Mike Derezik receiving a red card less than four minutes into the match. Derezik was sent off after retaliating against an opponent after being on the receiving end of a hard challenge in the midfield.
Despite seeing themselves go a man down, the Royals maintained control of the ball and prevented offensive opportunities for their Erie opponents. When the Commodores did regain possession, they probed AFC Cleveland’s midfield, but were still cautious in attacking goal.
The Commodores would get a couple opportunities near the end of the half, but the Royals defense kept the play in front of them before going into halftime to make readjustments.
The Royals made second-half adjustments to help generate more offensive opportunities in response to the Commodores taking a 1-0 lead, notably an aggressive forward-for-defender substitution that saw Declan McGivern make way for Ben Truax. The offensive chances finally came for the man-down Royals, leading to an equalizer via an Admir Suljevic penalty kick in the 66th.
Though the Royals equalized and pressed for a potential winning goal, they were undone on a Commodores counter attack late in the 90th stemming from an AFC Cleveland corner kick. Substitute Paul Bracken and the rest of the Commodores were in euphoria after his shot from Marshall Garcia’s cross made it past Anthony Flowers.
Vinny Bell earned a corner kick in the 24th and nearly put a shot on Commodores goalkeeper Jorge Prendes, but Daniel Koniarczyk’s set piece sailed too high for the forward open on the far side.
A pair of yellow cards were issued in quick succession late in the first half. Ezana Kahsay received a yellow card in the 33rd for persistent infringement, and one minute later Leonardo da Silva received a caution for simulation along the sideline.
Royals goalkeeper Anthony Flowers saved a one-time shot from Commodores midfielder Marshall Garcia in the 36th following an attempted clearance by Coletun Long. Flowers dove low to his left to push the shot past the goalframe.
Ezana Kahsay of the Commodores had their best opportunity of the half in the 40th with an open chance in front of goal near the penalty mark when a cross from Garcia skipped past Brian Potocnik to the Erie Commodores forward. Kahsay’s shot drifted well left of the goal.
Erie Commodores FC struck first in the 50th via a goal from Kahsay. Garcia found space in the center of the pitch before make a few positive dribbles and finding Kahsay cutting through the Royals centerbacks and burying a shot right of Flowers.
Before the goal, Koniarczyk went down with an apparent back injury and was replaced by Kotaro Umeda at the stoppage.
After making an offensive substitution, Ben Truax for Declan McGivern, the Royals immediately found much-needed productivity on the offensive end. Potocnik started the opportunity leading to the club’s only goal for the night, linking with Truax, whose deft touch put NOOMA Man of the Match Vinny Bell in position to score.
Bell’s run into the box would result in a foul and penalty kick for AFC Cleveland, which was converted by captain Admir Suljevic in the 66th to even the score.
Commodores left back Ashley Phillips looked to find forward Paul Bracken on a cross and almost scored as the wind carried the pass towards goal. Flowers looked up to see the ball hit the crossbar and carry out of play.
David Jordan conceded a dangerous free kick in the 86th minute just outside of the box and center on goal when a shot deflected off the defender’s hand.
The Royals earned three 90th minute corner kicks while pushing for a winning goal. The second chance found the head of Ryder Bell, who played a square pass towards Coletun Long, whose shot was saved by Prendes.
On a counter attack following AFC Cleveland’s third corner kick of the 90th, Bracken scored the winning goal by finishing a cross from Garcia, his second assist of the night. Commodores substitute Sebastian Mentel was in line to receive the pass, but wisely let the ball pass through to a wide-open Bracken.