A memorable inaugural campaign came to an end for Cleveland SC as they fell just short of the NPSL quarterfinals after falling 1-0 on the road to AFC Ann Arbor.
Both squads were evenly matched throughout in a wildly entertaining matchup between two teams clearly in the top tier of the region. With the margin of error razor thin, Serge Gamwanya’s 56th minute goal would prove to be enough to send AFC Ann Arbor to the regional final against Duluth FC. After a stoppage in play to tend to an Ann Arbor injury, Mighty Oak forward dribbled past three Cleveland SC defenders before squaring a pass to the oncoming Gamwanya, who slotted a perfect shot to the right of a diving Marijo Musa.
One of Cleveland SC’s best chances of the game came in the first half via a corner kick for the orange-and-black. Forward Vinny Bell found space in the box and connected with a solid header, but Bell’s shot carried wide left of the goal.
Coletun Long, who’s been sidelined with an injury of late, injected some energy into the side by coming on for Kurt Raney in the 57th minute after the Ann Arbor goal, but the offense was stalled by an effective Ann Arbor defense for the remainder of the half.
A skirmish late in the match involving Antonio Manfut ended with a red card for goalkeeper Marijo Musa.
In the end, Cleveland SC couldn’t break the Ann Arbor defense that only conceded four goals in the regular season and will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home.
Head Coach Ryan Osborne’s squad, including Region XI selections Vinny Bell and Chris Cvecko, put together an improbable season by getting the club on the same page in a short amount of time. To be competitive and make a deep postseason run with the club’s future uncertain as late as February will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments in Cleveland soccer history, and one that promises to build in the upcoming seasons.
Contributor: Cleveland SC