FC Monmouth defeated New Jersey Copa FC at Mercer County Community College on Saturday night, leaping over their local rivals in the Keystone Conference table to finish the regular season in fourth place and earning the last playoff spot.
“It really is unbelievable, isn’t it?” said FC Monmouth head coach Brian Woods. “Let’s be honest… we were just hoping to survive after playing against the first two opponents [of the season], just hoping that we didn’t get blown out in any games, just hoping that we could manufacture some things… all the credit goes to the players.”
The first big chance of the match for either side came in the sixteenth minute, when FC Monmouth forward Jordan Saling smashed the crossbar with a shot from point-blank range.
Two minutes later, FC Monmouth took the lead with a definite strike from forward Matt Thorsheim. Midfielder Vincenzo Pugliese sent a ball across the penalty area that took a bounce toward the top left corner of the box, where Thorsheim was positioned. The forward smashed a volley with his right foot that flew into the far corner of the net.
“I just knew I was gonna hit it from the second it bounced,” Thorsheim said. “It bounced perfectly in front of me, and I just couldn’t have connected with it better.”
The strike was not something that the forward considers to be a part of his usual skillset. “That was kind of a special one for me,” he laughed.
Just past the half-hour mark, FC Monmouth doubled their lead. Midfielder Chase Covello delivered an inch-perfect service into the box from a free kick that found defender Zach Pereira, who headed it across goal. Defender Matt Fryc, who was unmarked, tapped Pereira’s headed pass into the back of the open net.
Woods said that the goal was a direct product of work done on the training ground.
“At training we worked on crossed balls into the box all week,” Woods said. “We worked on that [the goal] for about an hour one night.”
Immediately after the goal, Copa pulled one back due to a mistake by goalkeeper Scott Weigel. After giving the ball away inside of the box, Weigel was helpless as striker Raphael Araujo received a pass across goal from his teammate and tapped it in to make it 2-1.
In stoppage time at the end of the first half, FC Monmouth restored their lead back to two goals. Defender Kevin Kappock played a hard pass on the ground to Covello, who shifted the ball onto his right foot and attempted a shot from about 25 yards out that took a deflection off of the defender in front of him and looped over the goalkeeper.
FC Monmouth’s strategy in the second half was to protect their two-goal lead while searching for another via counterattacks. Copa defender Angelo Jack was shown a red card by the referee in the 68th minute.
The final score remained 3-1, seeing FC Monmouth complete their inaugural season in the NPSL with a record of 6-3-1 and fourth place in the Keystone Conference table.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic about this,” said Pereira. “Going from not even knowing anybody’s names to making a playoff run is crazy for the new team that we are.”
FC Monmouth will face FC Motown in the Keystone Conference semi-final on Wednesday night at Drew University.
“I’m happy with the team, their position, and how they feel about themselves,” said Woods. “It doesn’t matter who we have to play, we’re gonna play our best no matter what.”
Contributor: Evan McMurtrie/FC Monmouth
Photo Credit: FC Monmouth