FC Buffalo earned a massive win on Friday night by defeating Great Lakes East Conference leaders AFC Cleveland 3-0 at home. A week after drawing 3-3 with Indy Eleven NPSL on the road, FC Buffalo had another three-goal game against a team that had only allowed five goals in seven matches.
“I’m extremely proud, extremely proud,” said FC Buffalo head coach Brendan Murphy. “This was a big game. We knew we were playing the best team in the conference and we had a chance on our home field to do something special.”
The hosts began the match at a frenetic pace, pressuring the Royals from the whistle. Anytime AFC Cleveland had the ball, Buffalo would close in attempting to force an error and the Wolves were largely successful in doing so.
The game was also rather physical early on, with Coletun Long and Romario Guscott having their own personal duel. Guscott was a constant threat for the Cleveland defenders and got the better of them in the 22nd minute, as he sped away on a break and teed up Kieran Toland, who made it 1-0 from inside the box.
Chances were hard to come by for the Royals, but they nearly scored at the end of the first half. In the 40th minute, Brian Potocnik combined well with Vinny Bell inside the box and unleashed a shot, but goalkeeper Nick Jeffs stifled the shot to preserve Buffalo’s lead.
At halftime, Admir Suljevic came on for the visitors and he had an instant impact. The Royals looked more threatening going forward, but a very disciplined Buffalo backline denied all of their attempts. On the offensive end, the Wolves continued playing long balls over the top and looking for a counter, but it became increasingly difficult.
With AFC Cleveland’s chances on goal becoming more frequent, Murphy decided to bring in Kendell McFayden and Philip Persson. The substitutions proved to be a smart decision as Persson set up McFayden for Buffalo’s second goal.
The goal came – once again – from a counter, as Isaiah Barret found space and fed a ball to Parssen inside the box. Parssen then sent a low cross to McFayden, who beat Flowers to the near post to make it 2-0 in the 72nd minute.
Now two goals behind, the Royals threw everything but the kitchen sink at FC Buffalo, but the hosts proved to be up to the task and dealt with everything that came their way. AFC Cleveland nearly pulled one back in the 77th minute when Tom Beck headed a free kick towards Bell. Bell fired a shot on target, but Jeffs saved it, sending it out for a corner kick.
The visitors continued to force Buffalo to play on the defensive for the remainder of the match, but Parssen had another moment of brilliance in the dying minutes. Following a breakaway, Parssen sent the ball towards Regan Steele, whose shot left Flowers picking himself up and put the nail in the coffin for AFC Cleveland.
After the match, Murphy talked about his team’s approach to the game. “We knew they were a very good team,” stated Murphy. “We came in humble and just knowing that we needed to defend and that if we could do that try to catch them on a break somehow and then we might be able to open the game up and it kind of worked out that way.”
Murphy also stated that the amount of pressure FC Buffalo put AFC Cleveland under was no coincidence.
“We tried to squeeze up higher up the field and just try to limit our own running so we didn’t have to keep chasing and sliding and moving because we know they can possess the ball very well, so we thought if we could catch them higher up the field then they wouldn’t be able to keep the ball for as long and [we could] try to get a few turnovers.”
AFC Cleveland head coach Carter Poe said that FC Buffalo’s approach was not unexpected and that his team knew the sort of game that awaited them.
“They’re difficult to beat and they’re very direct. They put a lot of balls in and put a lot of pressure on you. We knew that coming in and we just didn’t deal with it very well tonight,” he said. “I think we just gotta forget about this one and regroup.”
Up next for FC Buffalo is a road trip to Rochester on Sunday, June 26 to face off against Riverdogz FC, a team that defeated Buffalo at home earlier this season. Interestingly enough, AFC Cleveland’s next game is also against Riverdogz FC. The Royals won the previous encounter 2-1 at Rochester.