Cleveland SC head coach Ryan ‘Ozzy’ Osborne employed the right strategy to earn an emphatic 4-0 playoff win over Erie Commodores FC Friday.
Rather than risking key players with lingering injuries or potential suspensions during last weekend’s conference-deciding match against Erie, which went 2-1 in favor of the Commodores, Osborne rested Admir Suljevic, Mike Derezic, Tom Beck and Coletun Long. While Cleveland SC settled for second place in the regular season table, they ran full steam into the club’s first- ever playoff match, showing poise in the biggest match in the club’s short history.
Vinny Bell was once again a menace to the Commodores defense, scoring a brace and doing the leg work to cause an Erie own goal in the 79th minute. Bell tallied six totals goals against the Commodores this season across all competitions, and his seventh-minute effort set the tone for the rest of the match. Cleveland SC advanced play by swinging the ball center to James Haupt, who played Bell through on goal. Bell slipped past his defenders and dribbled around Commodores keeper Christopher Ralph, who replaced the suspended Nichola Neto, for an easy tap-in.
Marijo Musa once again played well to earn a clean sheet and was needed in the opening seconds of the second half to keep the lead after a long-distance try from the Commodores. His diving saved pushed the ball out of danger.
Bell would receive a patient pass from Antonio Manfut in the 56th to double the lead for the black-and-orange. Manfut then put one in for himself just seven minutes later. The cap to the night came in the 79th, when a Manfut-Beck-Bell connection led to the forward driving a low shot past Ralph toward the goal line. Commodores defender Kwame Opoku chased the ball down in time, but his attempted clearance ricocheted into the top corner of the net.
A double dose of Commodores red cards, one issued in the 59th to forward Jacob Alatorre, also prevented Erie from posing a comeback threat to Cleveland SC in one of its most impressive victories of the season.
Contributor: Cleveland SC