Unwin’s brace closes FC Buffalo tale
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • July 18, 2011 @ 11:24am
It’s very unlike Mike Unwin to be tense before a match, especially when it’s against a team with a 1-10 record, playing back-to-back games on the road and already down to ten men due to a goalkeeper’s concussion. If anything, the striker mentality would have Unwin licking his chops, salivating over the abundance of scoring opportunities expected. Knowing it would be his last match as a Blitzer, however, the perspective changed.
“I was more nervous than I’ve ever been for an FC Buffalo game,” Unwin admitted. “It was my last one, and I was picked to be captain, so I didn’t want to end on a bad note.”
To the surprise of no one, Unwin rose to the occasion by scoring twice in FC Buffalo’s season-ending 3-0 win over the undermanned New Jersey Blaze.
With Buffalo holding a 1-0 edge after a Stephen Baker finish of a deft Chris Walter through-ball, Unwin made his first mark on the contest in the 28th minute. Checking back to the ball, Unwin corralled a pass on the ground from Josh Faga and, as the Marist University defender continued his run inside for a potential give-and-go, Unwin spun back outside unexpectedly, shielded off a defender and overpowered the New Jersey keeper with a shot from close range.
Faga set up Unwin again in the 85th, but this time the burly Englishman did most of the work on his own. Slinking around the top of the 18-yard box, Unwin received a short pass, took a touch horizontally and released a scorcher into the upper left corner of the net.
The Blaze’s Evans Ofori, a Ghanaian headed to Syracuse University in the fall, was the lone bright spot before leaving due to an injury with 20 minutes left. Without Ofori, New Jersey was down to nine men and never really troubled FC Buffalo keeper Corey Phillips, a defender forced into emergency goalie duty. Matt Stedman, a striker, tended goal in the first half and combined with Phillips on the clean-sheet.
In five years, it’s unlikely that Mike Unwin will look back at his experience with FC Buffalo and say, “Wow, that was the highlight of my career.” He’s simply too talented, and his best days are unquestionably ahead. More probable is that the former UB striker hearkens back to his Blitzer tenure with an appreciation of an organization that allowed him to develop and lent support as he grew his family. With two markers against the Blaze, Unwin leaves with a franchise record ten goals (10 goals, 6 assists, 26 points).
He’s headed to Des Moines, Iowa to be closer to his wife’s family, as the couple just recently had its first child. Unwin will take over as assistant soccer coach at North Iowa Community College—his team prior to transferring to UB—before trying out for the Des Moines Menace of the Professional Development League in the spring.
“I really enjoyed my time here [at FC Buffalo],” Unwin said. “Both coaches (Hesch and Krzyzanowicz) and the organization were great, and I’ll miss it.”
FC Buffalo line-up: Stedman (Phillips, 46’); Johnson (Brouk 70’), Faga, Phillips (Grabowski 46’), Rinow; Cillis, Walter (Hartzell 58’), Schuber, Unwin; Baker, Tiedt.