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Blitzers spank Terriers in front of nearly 4,000

Photo holding Lord Bedlington Cup by Nate Benson

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Waves of fans cascaded into Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium, clad in Buffalo blue or Bedlington red, slightly baffled by the high-profile guests at the Lord Bedlington Cup.  Erie County Executive Chris Collins, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Buffalo Schools Superintendent James Williams (awkwardly booed) and Robert E. Rich were among the local celebrities that witnessed hordes of soccer fans shuffling their way into the sheltered seating of All-High.  When the final whistle sounded and the Blitzers had soundly prevailed 5-1, 3,821 people left happily.

“It’s one of the best nights of my life,” FC Buffalo co-owner Nick Mendola said post-game.  “The dangerous thing is with people like us and what we want to get done, we now know this is possible.” 

“We got on CNN in our first year, and then this year, we had the [Bedlington] event.  In a certain sense, you wonder if you’ve reached the top, but it’s just put so many more goals in my head.  I’m speechless, but I’m going to drink a lot of beer tonight,” Mendola quipped.

Inspired rather than daunted by the press and expectations of the match, FC Buffalo came out flying, nearly tallying in the first minute.  Josh Faga ran on to a quick throw in the right corner and volleyed a cross that almost connected with Matt Stedman’s head. 

Buffalo midfielder Mike Reidy opened the scoring with a bizarre goal in the 14th.  After a long throw-in prompted a scrum in the Bedlington 18-yard box, a Terrier defender used his thigh to pass the ball to keeper Craig Pickering, who could have legally scooped the ball up with his hands.  Briefly unsure of what to do, the goalie trapped the ball with his feet, and Reidy swooped in for a tackle.  Pickering’s desperate flail with his boot merely deflected the ball into the corner of his own net. 

The Blitzers’ second goal—seconds before halftime—broke the Terriers’ spirit; Bedlington had expended considerable energy on Tuesday night, beating Niagara United 4-1.  FC Buffalo central defender Corey Phillips, known more for his aerial ability and fierce tackles, slotted home a shot that beat Pickering to his near post. 

“Andy Tiedt laid a nice ball off to me and I [had] time, so I just had a go [at goal].  When you have time, good things happen,” Phillips said.

“Corey’s actually a pretty skilled player, and he has a nice shot.  He was a striker in high school and in junior college—he scored a goal in the state championship and the national championship of junior college. When I saw him eye it up, I thought that things would be pretty good—good shot, well-placed,” head coach Dan Krzyzanowicz.

Pickering earned a seat on the pine for the second half due to his gaffe, but replacement Kevin Morton fared worse.  In the 49th, Mike Unwin played an early ball into Cory Cwiklinski’s space down the right, and the Medaille alum cut deftly inside, bodied a defender off his right shoulder and slotted a shot into the low corner of the far post.  Rattled by the three goal deficit, Stuart Elliott released some frustration after the play, earning his second yellow in the 63rd minute. 

With beaten Bedlington down to ten men, the floodgates opened for Buffalo’s offense.  Substitute Stephen Baker executed a sly fake kick and bending left footed finish from 16 yards out in the 80th minute, while fellow sub Chris Walter corralled a rebound off a free kick and curled a shot inside the right post, leaving Morton without a chance. 

Although neither found the score-sheet, Faga and substitute Krystian Witkowski treated the crowd to a mesmerizing dribbling display.  A smooth “Maradona” by Witkowski nearly made a Bedlington defender weep in embarrassment, and Faga’s misdirection moves kept the Terriers off-balance all evening.

Former Newcastle United striker Paul Brayson ruined Buffalo’s clean sheet with a swerving free kick in the 87th minute, but the 5-1 result will certainly lead to a “long trip home.”

“We were smart, we worked very hard, we played for each other.  It was by far the best soccer we’ve played all year,” Krzyzanowicz added.

The Lord Bedlington Cup rightfully belongs in the arms of FC Buffalo.

FC Buffalo:  Yanni (DiLapo 81’); Rinow (Reisdorf 75’), Johnson, Phillips, Larracuente (Grabowski 77’); Cwikinski (Witkowski 56’), Faga (Salcedo 77’), Stedman (Schuber 65’), Unwin (Walter 69’); Reidy (Baker 77’), Tiedt (Zelko 65’).

TAGGED: blitzers, fc buffalo, lord bedlington cup, robert rich, soccer, terriers

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