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Nightmarish weekend for FC Buffalo as Erie sweeps soundly

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

There was very little hope for FC Buffalo Sunday in Erie, PA. Riding the coattails of Friday night’s 4-1 road win over the Blitzers, the Admirals downed a shorthanded Buffalo squad, this time 3-1 at Gannon University Field. 

Without Matt Stedman, Josh Faga, Josiah Snelgrove, Patrick Zelko, Jake Rinow and Ryan Walter—six usual starters—the Blitzers fell behind early and never recovered. Simply outmatched in the first half by a composed, technical and organized Erie squad, FC Buffalo’s sheer effort allowed Dan Krzyzanowicz’s team to dictate play in the second half while managing to avoid any further suspensions. Still, the inability to finish chances squashed any hope for a serious comeback.

“[The result] was disappointing—the first half we didn’t play well,” Krzyzanowicz said following the match. “We let a couple of questionable calls affect our play, and we just didn’t live in the moment.”

Erie struck first in the eighth minute, as a misshapen off-sides trap allowed Admirals’ star forward Afrim Latifi a free run at FC Buffalo goalie Eric Dehond, and Latifi calmly chose the lower right corner to bury his inside-of-the-foot drive. Blitzer captain Gary Boughton rushed to the linesman to argue the lack of an off-sides call, but the assistant referee refused to acknowledge him.

FC Buffalo mustered a chance against the run of play—Boughton bent a dangerous free kick through the middle of the Erie defense, and an onrushing Andy Tiedt nodded a flick off Erie goalie Danny Mudd’s crossbar. Instead of bouncing down over the goal line, it caromed back into the keeper’s hands.

The Admirals double their lead in the 22nd minute, as a gaffe from Dehond handed a moment of glory to Erie outside back Sean Pike—who instigated Snelgrove’s red card in Friday’s match. Stepping into a free kick with his left foot from 40 yards away, Pike’s high, curling shot sailed over Dehond’s head and under the crossbar.

Despite the two-goal deficit, the Blitzers created three scoring opportunities before the half. Nekabari Tor sprinted from his left fullback spot to receive a gentle through ball from Mike Reidy only three yards from the end-line. Tor’s low, driven cross bounced out to FC Buffalo striker Alexander Rouse from 12 yards away, but he mishit his one-time attempt.

Typical of the former Medaille stalwart, Rouse held the ball up well in attack 12 minutes later, shielding his dribble from two Erie defenders before laying a square pass to Chris Walter on a full sprint, but the Hartwick College import’s blast flew over the crossbar. Mudd exhaled, as Walter’s powerful strike would have found netting had it been on frame.

Perhaps FC Buffalo’s best chance of the half came in stoppage time, as Cory Cwiklinski turned the right corner on Pike before the Erie defender hauled him down inside the 18-yard box out of desperation. The challenge was not deemed worthy of a penalty, however, and the Blitzers hit the half on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline.

“We could have gone into halftime 2-2,” Krzyzanowicz noted. “[Erie’s] first goal looked like it was off-sides to me, and the second one I didn’t think we did well enough.”

Although tactical changes freshened the FC Buffalo side, the Admirals found a third only four minutes after the break. Erik Beattie marauded down the right side before pinging a cross into the penalty area—Erie striker Shane Howard struck the hip-high cross impeccably with a first-time half-volley, leaving Buffalo’s substitute keeper Brian Wagstaff beaten to his right post.

All looked lost for FC Buffalo at 3-0, but the Blitzers pressed numbers forward and played much more direct. The visitors failed to seize a golden opportunity in the 67th minute, however.

The center official caught Erie defender Gavin Stabbe with an obstruction call on Kendell McFayden, earning the Blitzers a penalty kick. Captain Boughton stepped forward but clanged the left post with his try.

“I thought the second half we really played great. The guys that stayed on battled, the substitutions made a difference, but Erie scored a good third goal and we didn’t take care of our opportunities.”

The lack of depth in an important match-up grated on a few Blitzers. While most of the absences were due to injury or suspensions instead of players simply missing the trip, a full-strength FC Buffalo club can definitely compete with Erie.

“Being shorthanded takes a toll on you for sure,” midfielder Mike Reidy said. “There’s definitely no excuses for sure, no reason to lose 3-1. We have a really good team, and we have two matches next weekend—we’ll focus on those and forget about this weekend.”

The Blitzers play at 7 p.m. in Detroit next Saturday before immediately returning to Buffalo for a 3 p.m. match Sunday. Tickets are $5 for all home matches.

FC Buffalo: Dehond (Wagstaff 46’); Schroen, Hall, McFayden, Tor; C. Walter (Carcaterro 83’), Reidy, Cwiklinski (Scirto 73’), Tiedt, Boughton (Ordonez 67’); Rouse (Grabowski 46’)

Erie: Mudd; Stabbe; Fitzgerald, Sheppard, Pike; Mahon (Meehl 80’), Livingston, Washek (Johnstone 85’), Beattie (Colvin 83’); Latifi (Gamble 83’), Howard

Man of the Match: Afrim Latifi, Erie.

(Header photo credit: Nate Benson from first Erie match Friday—full gallery here)

TAGGED: afrim latifi, erie admirals, fc buffalo, john melody, kendell mcfayden, mike reidy, npsl soccer, rivalry soccer, soccer

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