After starting the month with a break from action of 3 weeks, Flower City Union was back on the field after only four days this week. This time, they took the field in Detroit for a rather unusual 9 a.m. kickoff. Neither team has had a great end to their summers, as both have lost four and drawn one in their last five matches.
It didn’t seem like the strongest start from FCU, as the opening minutes of play were almost all Gold Star Detroit. It was FCU however that had the first good chance at goal, even though Detroit had had a couple of corner kicks. The 8th minute saw a nice break by Flower City, driving their men into the Detroit zone. Noah Cavanaugh sent the ball to the end line to Frederick Opoku, who cleared it into the front of net towards Stephen Elias, but the Detroit keeper came out to make the save. It was a dangerous ball and the start of their offense. A few minutes later Malik Stewart brought the ball down the opposite end line, sending it across the face of goal, but there was no one to pick it up. The lack of starting forward Alioune Diakhate didn’t seem to be troubling FCU, as their other forwards picked up the slack. Their second shot of the early game saw one that didn’t really trouble the keeper but did have a nice play of Matt Bolduc bringing it around three Detroit defenders into their zone.
Matt Bolduc was again denied in the 19th minute. Stewart sent the ball in from the right sideline, where Bolduc was at the back post. His header was kept out of the net by the keeper and cleared off the line by the Detroit defender. The resulting corner was knocked behind the net, and Josue Cartagena’s follow-up was easily fielded by the keeper. They kept on the pressure though, as a break a few minutes later saw most of the FCU players touch the ball, with Elias taking the final shot, a turning kick that forced the keeper into his fourth save of the early game. They almost put one in soon after that, but Stewart’s ball trickled just wide of the post. After all their dominance, the first goal went to Detroit. Flower City was unable to clear the ball, and it was sent across the pitch to a wide-open Detroit attacker, who took it out of the air and sent it past a diving Michael Mejia in the 26th minute from outside the 18-yard box.
The rest of the half passed mostly uneventful for either team. Detroit had their second shot of the game, right into the hands of Mejia. The dying moments of the half saw Stewart fire a ball into the crossbar and soon after put one well over the net. Most of the possession had been Flower City Union’s, but Detroit had scored on their first shot and led at the half.
The second half saw the game becoming much more physical. The 57th minute saw Detroit bring the ball from their own end all the way down the pitch. Cavanaugh knocked the forward off the ball, and the play went all the way back down the other way, with Elias taking it into the box and putting it far side past the keeper for the equalizer. The pressure continued as the 62nd minute saw a near-miss for FCU. A corner kick and the resulting play led to a ball bouncing around in the box, with the Detroit keeper unable to clear it, but it came to nothing as it was cleared before FCU could put the final touch on it. The physical play continued as a Detroit player wrestled down an FCU attacker in the 64th minute. From 30 yards out, Noah Cavanaugh’s free-kick went into the net by Elias for his second goal of the morning. It just kept coming too, as the 68th minute saw Elias putting in his third of the morning, inside the near post from about 6 yards out.
While Flower City Union entered the second half down by a goal, the half was all theirs. It wasn’t until the 75th minute before Gold Star even had a shot on goal for the half. FCU almost put in a fourth goal in the 84th minute, as it seemed that Matt Bolduc had a completely open goal and perfect setup, but his header was put into the side netting. Even though Detroit led for a portion of the game, Flower City Union was the better team. They controlled the ball for most of the first half, and they came out dominant in the second. Credit must also go to the defenders, who did clear away what little they came across, and whatever coach Jordan Sullivan said at the half to make them come out strong again. It was a great performance, probably their best of the year.
Because I’m a huge fan of statistics, I have to end by talking about Stephen Elias’ hat trick. Earlier this season, he became the first FCU player to score 2 goals in a US Open Cup game (Suneil Veerakone had previously scored 2 in the NISA Independent Cup, and Luke Ferreira has since scored 2 in a league game). This was the first hat trick ever for a Flower City Union player. Not only that, in the modern era (since the creation of the MLS), his 11-minute hat trick is the fastest ever by a Rochester player. The previous record was set July 4, 2003 by Fred Commodore of the Rochester Raging Rhinos with a hat trick in 22 minutes. Stephen Elias has just cut that in half.