There was a lot on the line in tonight’s game between the Knoxville Force and Memphis City FC at Sansom Sports Complex. The winner of the game would secure a second place finish in the Southeast Conference and a home game in playoffs. Given the Force’s history, obtaining that second seed undoubtedly would have meant a great deal to the team and the fans. During the game, a win seemed likely after the Force came back from a one goal deficit and continued to put pressure on Memphis. However, a thrilling game soon turned sour when a PK was given to Memphis in the final five minutes of the game, sealing the Force’s fate.
Throughout the game, it was evident that both teams were rather evenly matched. Possession and momentum continued to swing back-and-forth until the final whistle was blown. In comparison to the Force’s previous game against New Orleans, the team played much more relaxed and passed the ball more instead of just kicking it up the field. This is clearly how the Force’s coach wanted his team to play as fans could constantly hear him during the game yelling, “Keep it! Keep it!”
In the first half, both teams’ defense made important stops. In the 22nd minute of the game, Jamie McLellan, center back for the Force, came out of nowhere and made a huge sliding tackle on a Memphis attacker after a defensive turnover. Ten minutes later, the Memphis goalkeeper dove to the ground and saved what seemed like a certain goal off a Force corner. The only goal of the half came in the 44th minute. John Skahan made a move around his Force defender and scored Memphis City’s first goal of the night. He was assisted by Santiago Moore. The half ended with Memphis leading by one.
Martin Baker, the Force’s goalkeeper, really stepped up his game and had an especially stellar second half tonight. He made several great stops in the first 15 minutes of the second half to keep the Force’s chances alive. In the 64th minute, the Force finally got its goal to tie up the game. After a great pass by Tim Baker, Yinka Lawal turned and shot the ball into the net. The game was now all tied up. After the goal, the Force’s coach got on his players to keep up the hard work rate and to stay fired up.
In the last ten minutes of the game, the Force offense continued to put pressure on Memphis City’s defense. However, momentum switched to Memphis after a defensive clearance. In the 85th minute of the game, a Memphis attacker tried to dribble past two Force defenders into the box. Both defenders stuck out their legs to stop him, causing the attacker to go down in the box. The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty kick spot. Santiago Moore stepped up to take the kick for Memphis and scored in the 86th minute. The Force could not come back and lost 2-1.
While tonight’s loss means that the Force will not be the second seed in playoffs, Force fans have cause to celebrate because the team has secured a top four spot and will advance to the postseason. However, before playoffs begin, the Force have one more conference game to play at Sansom Sports Complex on Tuesday, July 5 against Chattanooga FC, who remains undefeated this season. The game starts at 7 pm.