Seeing red: Discipline dooms FC Buffalo in loss to Erie
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • June 08, 2012 @ 11:47pm
Surviving one red card is an uphill battle for the offending club, regardless of the situation. Surviving two red cards in one half? Impossible.
The FC Buffalo Blitzers found themselves in such a rare situation during Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Erie Admirals at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium. Red cards to Josiah Snelgrove in the 25th minute and Matt Stedman in the 43rd minute, coupled with the ejection of head coach Dan Krzyzanowicz, destroyed a highly-entertaining rivalry match and turned it into a lopsided snoozer.
“It’s always tough when a game gets a little out of hand like that,” Blitzer captain Gary Boughton said. “Red cards change the aspect of the game every time there is one, especially when there’s two for the same side.”
FC Buffalo exploded out of the gate for the second straight match, as Kendell McFayden etched his name in the goal column—for the third time in two games—in the third minute. A long ball from left fullback John Grabowski bounced high into the Erie 18-yard box, and Admirals’ keeper Danny Mudd leaped to corral the high bounce while fending off a pesky Alexander Rouse aerial challenge. Rouse did enough to jar Mudd and prevent him from cleanly grabbing the ball—McFayden, stationed to Rouse’s right, pounced on the loose ball and buried into the empty goal.
The lead was short-lived, as Erie responded just five minutes later. Short passing and a flurry of diagonal runs inside the Blitzer 18-yard box had FC Buffalo on its heels, but the Admirals’ goal came from an unlikely source. Midfielder Eric Beattie ducked inside the Buffalo 18-yard box to blister a volley at Blitzer keeper Eric Dehond, who dove to flick the ball away with his left hand. Erie central defender Brian Fitzgerald went careening to the back post and ripped home the rebound to knot the score at one.
Two minutes later, a dynamic play from Blitzer-killer Afrim Latifi put Erie ahead for good in the 10th. A deft first touch of a long ball and an absurdly quick turn by Latifi left the Blitzers frantically recovering. Latifi cut hard back inside, laying a square ball to Beattie on his right. Erie midfielder Steve Mahon overlapped over Beattie’s right shoulder, and after receiving a short pass into space, Mahon pinged a hard, low shot inside Dehond’s far post. Just like that, Erie stole the lead seven minutes after FC Buffalo scored the game’s first goal.
Instead of inspiring more creative play, the flurry of goals prompted dangerous tackles and chippy play, as Erie’s James Livingston and Buffalo’s Ryan Walter picked up yellow cards in the next 10 minutes. A bizarre scenario in the 25th, however, resulted in Josiah Snelgrove’s ejection.
FC Buffalo won a free kick 40 yards from Erie’s goal, and Snelgrove—a monster in the air—jockeyed for position inside the Admirals’ 18-yard box. What happened next is still being clarified, but here’s Boughton’s take.
“As far as I’ve found out, I guess [Snelgrove] got punched before the free kick,” Boughton explained, “and then he went and confronted the Erie player and gave him an open-handed pat.”
The center official witnessed Snelgrove’s retaliation and the immediate agony of Erie’s Sean Pike, then promptly reached straight for his red card. Snelgrove stormed off the pitch with little complaint. Mid-game reports from the Blitzers had Snelgrove bound for the hospital with broken jaw from the initial contact, but nothing has been confirmed.
Even though Grabowski was forced to clear a ball off his goal line, Erie didn’t dominate the next 20 minutes as much as you’d expect from a team playing with a man-advantage. Already spiraling out of control, the game broke into chaos in the 43rd minute.
After picking up a rather innocuous yellow card in the 34th for a late, but not malicious, tackle, FC Buffalo midfielder Matt Stedman went in for another tackle on the far sideline. While a simple foul would have been an understandable choice, the Admiral winger crumpled to the ground as Stedman made contact. The center official whipped out a second yellow card to Stedman—which equals a red—and suddenly Buffalo was down to nine men.
“I think we came out and wanted to tackle hard, but I think our red cards were a little bit more mental mistakes than anything else,” Boughton said post-game. “The retaliation is always going to be called before the first foul. Then, when we’re already down a man, we have to keep our head better than we did.”
“People’s heads got lost way too easily,” defender Patrick Zelko added, “and the rivalry definitely played its part.”
An inconsolable Krzyzanowicz demanded explanations from the sideline, unleashing an earful on any official in sight. Coming to the aid of the fourth official and the linesmen, the center referee demanded that Krzyzanowicz leave the Blitzer bench, gesticulating wildly. The manager refused, causing a scene between all four officials, team owners and players that dragged on for nearly 10 minutes. FC Buffalo’s head coach eventually gave in and left the field.
It would have been understandable had the Blitzers quit after their best defender, player/coach and head coach had all been ejected, but FC Buffalo fought back with inspired play before and after the intermission. While the back-line was forced to bend on several occasions, it didn’t break until the 74th minute—center defenders Patrick Zelko and Kendell McFayden were magnificent in denying attacks at the last second, stymieing Shane Howard, Latifi and Mahon on several chances.
“Coming together as a team is the positive we take out of it,” Zelko said of the game’s final 45 minutes. “We sat in [in the back] and held it down as much as we could until the half when we could get a game-plan together. Even though the final scoreline says 4-1, we did our part—with nine men, it’s as good as it could get.”
Afrim Latifi’s insurance goal in the 74th minute allowed Erie to breathe comfortably, as poised short passes between Sean Washek and Latifi created space for the latter 12 yards from goal on the left side. Latifi sniped a shot inside Dehond’s near post, and FC Buffalo’s hopes for an against-all-odds draw were thrown to the wolves.
“It’s mentally draining and physically draining, but I thought we weathered the storm well,” Boughton said. “We tried to push forward to get the one goal back—it’s tough, especially when you work for 70 minutes to hold [the margin] to one goal while down two men. It’s a little upsetting that we made it that far into the game and then kind of fell off.”
A miscommunication between Dehond and his defenders—the keeper was caught in no man’s land after tentatively abandoning his goal-line—led to Mahon’s second of the match in the 76th. Late Blitzer sub Pablo Ordonez brought a few moments of brilliance, but nothing to seriously threaten Danny Mudd or substitute keeper Keady Segel.
FC Buffalo has virtually no time to regroup, as the Blitzers travel for a 1 p.m. game Sunday at Erie’s Gannon University Field.
“It’s going to be tough to turn around Sunday, but it’s something we have to do,” Zelko said. “We have to deal with the injuries, the red cards, and take them as they come.”
FC Buffalo: Dehond; Grabowski (Johnson 75’), Snelgrove (ejected 25’), Zelko, C. Walter; R. Walter (Cwiklinski 46’), Boughton (Scirto 70’), Stedman (ejected 43’), Reidy (Ordonez 78’); Rouse (Tiedt 46’), McFayden (Hughes 78’)
Erie: Mudd (Segel 85’); Stabbe, Fitzgerald (Kavlick 55’), Sheppard, Pike (Barry 85’); Mahon, Livingston (Meehl 25’), Washek (Johnstone 79’), Beattie (Gamble 79’); Latifi, Howard (Colvin 60’)
Man of the Match: Steve Mahon, Erie
(Photos courtesy of Nate Benson—full match gallery here)