On a partly cloudy, mid-70s summer day, the Asheville City Blues were fortunate to avoid the rain and enjoy a taste of beautiful mountain weather. Fans began to pile into the stadium by the hundreds ready to support Asheville City’s drive towards an undefeated inaugural season. For the third straight home game, Memorial Stadium nearly reached two thousand fans. As the boys in Blue took the pitch, excitement and anticipation filled the atmosphere around the tight-knit community. Stands on either sides of the stadium were dressed from head to toe in signature navy blue and white knits, painting downtown Asheville in a sea of blue.
Kickoff was at 7:30 and the Knoxville Force dropped back into a defensive heavy, conservative approach to the game. Holding a tight line of defenders and midfielders, Knoxville’s players shut down Asheville’s strives to attack the goal but lacked an offensive presence early in the game. To combat this formation, the Asheville players spread the field and focused their attention on wing players Tom Deeley and Christian Szalay. Playing crosses into striker Joao Burti, several shots narrowly veered off target and sighs of anxious energy could be heard from all over the stadium. When the halftime whistle sounded, the score read 0-0, but with each team pushing for victory, a tie-breaking goal was inevitable.
With tensions high, physical play ensued between both teams. In the 63rd minute, Juan Zapata for Knoxville Force received a yellow card after an aggressive play resulted in a downed Asheville City Soccer forward. As play resumed, both teams pressed on in a tight fight for supremacy and for 3 points in the Southeastern Conference.
In the 76th minute, forward Ashley Kelynack for the Knoxville Force scored to the dismay of the loyal Asheville City crowd. The Force’s Tim Baker assisted on the goal. Asheville City fans, coaches and teammates alike held their breath, craving an equalizer in the closing minutes of the conference match.
Fans nervously watched and waited as Asheville City relentlessly pursued the goal. Finally, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, a foul was called on the Knoxville Force in the box and referees granted Asheville City a penalty kick. Calm, cool and collected, Asheville’s Jascha Glueckschalt, from Frankfurt, Germany, stepped up and delivered a blazing shot towards the right corner of the goal. Knoxville’s goalie was fooled, diving left as the ball connected with the back of the net. Fans erupted at the sight of the equalizer and players rejoiced, knowing that their undefeated streak was still alive.
Elated from the dramatic finish of the game, players and supporters relived their match experience at the Hi-Wire Brewing Big Top brewery. As the prideful community surrounds themselves around the players, Asheville City Soccer Club mightily pushes for the top spot in the Southeast Conference. Up next, Asheville City Soccer Club will square off against the Knoxville Force again in an away game played at Sanson Sports Complex in Knoxville, TN.