FC Monmouth defeated their first Pennsylvanian opponents of the season Hershey FC by a score of 2-1 at Count Basie Park on Saturday evening, improving their record in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) to 2-2-0.
“I think that every game we play we’re getting better,” said defender Thomas Judge. “At this point we still haven’t played that much together. Our chemistry is just getting better and better as we play, so I’m really excited for it.”
In similar fashion to last week’s home opener, FC Monmouth took the lead less than ten minutes into the match. After intercepting a pass, Judge danced around three defenders before squeezing the ball in behind the defense down the left flank. Forward Julian Valerio ran onto the pass, calmly shifted the ball onto his right foot, and placed a shot on the ground into the bottom right corner of the net.
FC Monmouth captain and midfielder John Antunes, who scored the lone goal in last week’s victory, was forced out of the game due to injury just moments after Valerio’s opener. About ten minutes after that, defender Zachary Pereira, who has played every minute of the season so far, was also subbed off after sustaining an injury.
“It [the injuries] has a great effect on our game plan because now I’m changing things around that we’ve gone over during the week that we are not ready to change that early in the match,” FC Monmouth head coach Brian Woods said.
One of the adjustments made by Woods included Judge being bumped from left-back up to central midfield, an unnatural position for the defender.
“But overall, the guys I did put into the match did an outstanding job,” he said.
The remainder of the first half was quiet for both sides, and though FC Monmouth entered the halftime break up 1-0, Judge believed that the squad’s mental state was not at its strongest.
“At halftime it just seemed like everyone’s energy was a little low. Our heads weren’t in the game at that point,” he said.
Just two minutes into the second half, Hershey FC equalized through Kyle Moerschbacher. After receiving the ball ten yards away from the box, a Hershey midfielder turned and slipped a through ball on the ground into the penalty area. Moerschbacher ran in behind the defender, took a pair of touches, and fired the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Scott Weigel to level the score.
“I think the goal really woke us up,” Judge said. “After a few more minutes went by in the half I feel like we gained some traction again.”
Over the next fifteen minutes, Monmouth had a flurry of shots on goal saved or fly just wide of the target as they tried to re-claim their lead.
In the 77th minute, they did so, thanks to a dazzling solo effort from Judge. After intercepting a pass near midfield, the defender burst past one man and drew another in as he dribbled into the box down the left side.
“I had the right-back to beat. I just faked inside, cut back outside, gave him a little shove, and then shot it into the far post,” Judge said.
For the remainder of the match, FC Monmouth focused on preserving their lead and positioned more men behind the ball. The home side was able to hold onto the 2-1 win, giving them their second victory in a row.
Judge was named Professional Orthopaedic Man of the Match for his performance, which included an assist and the winning goal.
“Thomas Judge has probably been the Man of the Match for the last four matches,” Woods said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him, he’s got a bright future at James Madison [University], and we’re just happy he’s here.”
FC Monmouth’s win over Hershey FC levels their record to 2-2-0 ahead of their next match where they will welcome New Jersey Copa FC to Count Basie Park on the 13th.
“We showed heart, we were able to come back,” Valerio, who scored the opening goal, said. “It shows that the group is really coming together.”
Conributor: Evan McMurtrie/FC Monmouth
Photo Credit: FC Monmouth