The cold and rainy pregame weather did little to dampen the spirits for the 2,176 supporters that showed up to Asheville City’s inaugural game. The fans marched to the stadium through the cold wind and sloshy conditions to cheer on their brand new local soccer team. Luckily the rain stopped before kick-off, which was a great omen for the Blues as the ACSC fans were rewarded with a 2-1 victory against divisional opponents Georgia Revolution.
The game started off with a lot of back-and-forth play. As Asheville City controlled the ball more efficiently early on, Georgia Revolution kept the Blues out of the penalty area and made City settle for difficult passes and shots in the final third of the field.
The game broke open in the 18th minute on a chaotic sequence of events. As AVL City’s left winger Deeley attempted a low cross into the box, the Rev goalkeeper and a Rev defender wildly attempted a clearance which saw the ball land just on the edge of the box. A Georgia defender was tackled attempting the dribble the ball just outside the box which left the ball for Deeley to cross it in from the left side to a wide open Christian Szalay in the middle.
After the goal, Georgia Revolution began pushing forward and in the 31st minute, Christian Duncan tied the game 1-1 after a spastic clearance by a City defender. The two clubs went into halftime tied 1-1 with Georgia Revolution controlling 55% of the possession.
The second half saw much better midfield play by both teams as very few chances were created by either side. Georgia Revolution was able to earn a few corners early in the 2nd half but without much reward.
The game turned in the 67th minute, when AVL City’s Head Coach Gary Hamel made a triple substitution pulling out goalscorer Szalay for local striker Brayan Aguirre, winger Deeley for Cameron Saul, and defender Jack Lewis for UNC-Asheville product Zach Compton. 8 minutes later two of the subs had a direct impact on the final outcome of the game.
A long ball played by Zach Compton towards the left side of the box where it was misjudged by the Georgia Revolution goalkeeper and scooped up by a running Cameron Saul, who poked the ball to the center of the box and then easily passed it into the back of the net. The score was then 2-1 and Asheville City was within reach of a win on their opening night.
The Revolution continued pushing forward and earned a number of corner kicks but failed to convert these chances. Their best chance to tie the game came in the 5 minutes of extra time added. As time was running down, Asheville City midfielder Brady Blackwell, who had won the initial tackle that created the opening goal, went in for another challenge on a Revolution attacker about 30 yards out from his own goal. The referee felt the challenge was illegal and reckless and issued Blackwell Asheville City’s first-ever yellow card.
The Revolution team then rushed forward for the ensuing cross in the 94th minute. This cross was fortunately mishit and sailed about 10 yards over the goal. Seconds later, the referee blew the final whistle and Asheville City earned the first-ever win on their opening night. The three points puts City into a tie with the Birmingham Hammers and Inter Nashville FC for first place in the Southeastern Conference.