The Royals made it six points out of six on Saturday night after defeating FC Buffalo 2-0 at home. Although the match was fairly even during the first stanza, goals by Ryan Ware and skipper Admir Suljevic in the second half ensured the victory for the hosts.
The first half of the game was a back and forth affair that saw both teams’ backlines step up when needed. Nicholas Jeffs, the FC Buffalo goalkeeper, made saves on efforts by Vinny Bell and Ware to keep the visitors in the game.
While the first half followed an end-to-end dynamic – halted by occasional periods of congestion in the midfield – it was the Royals who seemed closer to scoring. But despite having issues defending their right flank, FC Buffalo managed to reach halftime with a clean sheet.
AFC Cleveland got off to a quick start in the second half thanks to a nice combination between Riley Grant and Ryan Ware. In the 48th minute, Grant dribbled into the box from the left flank and cut the ball back to Ware, who fired a shot from the edge of the box to give the Royals the lead.
“I knew Coletun was going to dump it over the top so I got back on-side and then made a run behind what was a great ball by Coletun,” said Grant. “I saw Ryan was calling my name and I saw him coming from the top of the 18, so I just laid it off and he had a beautiful finish to put it away.”
The goal forced FC Buffalo to go on the attack chasing the equalizer, but it also left them vulnerable at the back. Cleveland was able to hit at Buffalo via counters, one of which would lead to a goal. In the 76th minute, Brian Potocnik slid the ball to Suljevic, who beat a defender and the goalkeeper to score the Royals’ second goal.
“Tom Beck played me a great ball down the line,” said Potocnik. “I heard Admir shouting from behind me, [and] I was lucky to slip it past him right in between a couple guys. He did all the hard work, honestly, with the finish.”
The visitors came close to scoring just minutes after the goal, as Anthony Flowers came off his line too early, allowing Ian McGrath to toe the ball past him. Luckily for Cleveland fans, Coletun Long managed to get to the ball on time, clearing it off the line.
The Royals would get two more chances to extend their lead; the first chance came in the 81st minute when Jeffs managed to save a free kick taken by Skye Harter that seemed destined for goal. The second chance came in the 86th minute when Ryder Bell was brought down inside the box, earning the hosts a penalty kick. Unfortunately for AFC Cleveland, Grant’s penalty shot went well over the cross bar.
The victory was the Royals’ second of the season, which keeps them undefeated before heading out on what will be the first of three back-to-back away matches. Head Coach Carter Poe spoke to the importance of winning at home before such a stretch.
“It was huge, we talked about that before the game. Big two games playing Indiana and playing Buffalo and they’re both at home, so you really want to take advantage of that before you go on the road for a bit,” he stated.
AFC Cleveland’s next match is on Friday, May 27 against Rochester RIverdogz at Rochester. Two days later, the Royals will head out to Indiana to face off against FC Indiana on May 29, which will be followed by another away match on June 4, this time against Indy Eleven NPSL.