It’s been a long time since Flower City Union had a home game, not having played at their downtown stadium since August. They entered the match in 6th place, the final playoff position, with a rematch against third-placed Albion San Diego. They last met earlier this summer, when Albion defeated FCU 2-0 in California.
The opening of the match can only be described as a scrappy contest. It was very physical back-and-forth, with a lot of fouls. Neither team really seemed to outperform the other for the first 20 minutes. It wasn’t until the 24th minute that any real opportunity occurred. A long ball was sent from the far touchline down the end line, where an Albion striker ran past an FCU defender. However, the shot went directly to newly signed keeper Phillip “Big Phil” Ejimadu, who was acquired due to an injury of starting keeper Michael Mejia.
The physical play finally came to a head in the 32nd minute as Matt Bolduc intercepted a pass and tried to take it into the Albion box. An Albion defender came flying in and took him out, right outside the box, for a yellow card and a free kick. Sadly, Luke Ferreria’s free-kick was deflected, and while it wasn’t cleared, FCU couldn’t get a foot to it before the Albion keeper was able to dive onto it.
The first real chance for FCU came in the 39th minute, as Frederick Opoku sent the ball to a slight offsides Stephen Elias at the top of the 18-yard box. The whistle didn’t blow though, and a turning Elias sent the ball just over the bar. Albion soon after took it down to FCU’s end, where Noah Cavanaugh cleared the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless. The dying minute should have seen Albion go ahead into the break, as Albion got the ball having beaten an FCU defender and seemingly Ejimadu, but somehow they put the ball well high and wide from 5 yards out.
The story of the first half was good defending. It started with physical play, followed by a lot of pressure by Albion. Flower City Union was never really in trouble though, as their solid defending may not have kept the possession, but it never left them troubled. The game then transitioned to more back-and-forth, with the defense a little more scattered, but there was only really one solid chance per team for the entire half.
It didn’t take much time for Albion San Diego to break the deadlock after the half though. In the 48th minute, a shot was deflected right to an Albion player in the FCU box. He kicked it up and over a jumping Ejimadu, where the ball bounced off the crossbar, and fell right to another attacker who easily put it in. Flower City Union did not just sit back though, as the substitutions of Logan Lee and Alioune Diakhate brought some offensive life to FCU and a flurry of chances around the hour mark. There were multiple chances on goal, some from good FCU play, some from errors by Albion, but they came to naught.
For the rest of the match, neither team really threatened a goal, so the 1-0 loss seemed to be solidified. It became a foregone conclusion late in the game when FCU had made all their substitutions, but Opoku went down with an injury and had to be helped off the field. The final minutes of the game were played with FCU down a man and a goal, so it wasn’t a surprise that they weren’t able to score an equalizer.
It was a disappointing night for Flower City Union. While Albion San Diego had more possession overall, their defending was superb, and the goal that was given up was more a fluke than due to poor performance. What let them down on the night came to two things. One, the fact that they didn’t put any sustained pressure on Albion, and what pressure they did have, did not come to shots that threatened. But also important was that in the second half, most of their passes were intercepted in the midfield, so they never really had a chance to get things going.
…or that’s what I would have written, because who could have seen this coming? The game went to the 7th minute of stoppage time, with Flower City Union got a free kick along the sideline. The free kick was sent in for Logan Lee to make an incredible, late-tying goal to salvage a point. That was the third-ever stoppage-time winner for Flower City Union, but easily the latest. And a hell of a way to shock and end a game. It was a point well-earned for Flower City Union, as both teams played about even, and while they could have done with a win, salvaging a point seems to be huge for playoff implications. Check the table tomorrow, as currently Club de Lyon is tied and therefore 1 point behind due to FCU’s tying goal, and Savannah Clovers just saved a penalty against Chattanooga to remain tied, and either of those games going for those teams will change the playoff outlook for FCU.
Editors note – Both Club de Run By Nisa and the Clovers lost. de Lyon is two points and two games back but it is unclear how many of those games will be played. FCU. The NISA schedule only lists one of their extra games. For legal reasons, we have been advised to cease futher speculation regarding Clud de Lyon.