Cleveland SC missed an opportunity to earn an improbable conference championship in its inaugural season Saturday but have set up a July 13 rematch after falling 2-1 on the road against title-winners Erie Commodores FC.
The reverse fixture following a recent 3-2 Cleveland SC victory over the Commodores was once again a thriller that saw three goals and a red card before the Commodores were crowned champions of the East Conference. Erie’s Jack Simpson struck first with a 32nd minute header from a well-placed cross by Ashley Phillips. Cleveland SC had a chance of their own just minutes later as Vinny Bell was taken down at the edge of the box. Erie goalkeeper Nicolau Neto was issued a red card for the challenge, but the referee spotted the foul just outside the box before the free kick was stopped by the wall.
Erie would double its lead before the half after a long screamer from Casey Bartlett-Scott in the 41st minute. With the man advantage, Cleveland SC kept pressure on the Commodores’ goal for the remainder of the second half, breaking through only once with a Vinny Bell goal in the 70th minute, Bell’s fourth goal against the Commodores in two matches. The orange-and-black’s best chance to draw and potentially bring an NPSL conference title back to Cleveland came in the 73rd when Bell nearly put a second goal in off a rebounded Danny Ruple shot.
The silver lining for Cleveland SC leaving the weekend is the opportunity for a rematch next Saturday in the opening rounds of the NPSL playoffs. With seeding based on location as much as per match in the NPSL Midwest Region, the Commodores as the third-seed did not earn a bye and will host Cleveland SC once more this Friday, July 13. Kickoff is scheduled for 7PM. The winner of Saturday’s match is slated to play 2-seed AFC Ann Arbor Friday, July 20th.
Though Cleveland SC gave the Commodores a tough effort without key players in the lineup, head coach Ryan Osborne and fans will hope for the return of regular starters Admir Suljevic, Mike Derezic, Coletun Long, and Tom Beck, who were all out Saturday with lingering injuries. The return of Bell to the lineup Saturday was promising and helped lift the squad in the second half. Though Cleveland SC have benefitted from strong depth, having these talents at the disposal of Osborne will undoubtedly help the team make a deep playoff run.
Contributor: Cleveland SC