Report: Real Maryland 1- Crystal Palace 0

Real Maryland passed its first ever USL-2 test with a 1-0 pre-season win over Crystal Palace Baltimore at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday evening.

It was an emotional night as both teams lined up before the match to salute Matt DeOrsey- a local player and teammate of Crystal Palace Baltimore co-coach Pete Medd. Matt died tragically a few months ago just before his 30th birthday.

The evening started with DeOrsey’s parents presenting the DeOrsey Cup to both squads. The team that scores the most goals over the two regular season matches between the two sides will lift the trophy. Real Maryland captain, Ronald Cerritos, then presented the DeOrsey family with a Real Maryland pennant and a moment of silence was held in Matt DeOrsey’s honor.

The match started at a fast and physical pace with Palace midfielder Brian Harkin receiving a yellow card in the third minute for a hard foul.

Palace, however, started the brighter of the two sides and in the fifth minute Real Maryland goalkeeper Emilio Zelaya miss-kicked a ball right into the path of Palace forward Gary Brooks. In the ensuing scramble, Zelaya brought Brooks down just outside the box and was shown a yellow card. 

On the ensuing free kick, Shintaro Harada sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but Zelaya did well to rise above everyone and punch it clear.

Palace was at it again three minutes later. Bryan Harkin was running the show and he weaved his way through the midfield but put his shot over from 20 yards.

Real Maryland had to wait till the 13th minute to create their first genuine chance of the match. Dennis Alas floated in a free kick from the left side of midfield. Nilson Perez rose highest, but was unable to get his header on target.

Palace went back on the attack three minutes later. Alas lost the ball in midfield and Pat Healey played striker Matthew Mbuta in on goal. Zelaya was quickly off his line, sliding to block Mbuta’s close range effort.

Zelaya was called into action again only three minutes later as Harkin played a precise switch to Kevin King at the left of the box. King brought the ball down and walked in on goal, but Zelaya again was fast off his line and got down well to make the save. 

Real Maryland was back on the attack in the 21st minute. Ronald Cerritos lobbed a well measured ball over the Palace defense to William Brindley. The striker took his first time volley well, but Palace keeper Zach Thompson was well positioned to make the save.

Brindley was at it again seven minutes later when he controlled a long ball and got around his marker, but shot narrowly wide.

In the 32nd minute, some pinball action almost cost Real Maryland dearly. Kevin King sent in a dangerous cross from the left. The ball hit off Zelaya, bounced off a Palace player right in front, but trickled just wide of goal.

Teodoro Ramirez had been causing the Palace defense fits up and down the right flank all half and in the 35th minute, his cross was poorly delt with by the Palace backline. The ball fell right to Ronald Cerritos at the top of the box, but he put his effort well wide.

It didn’t matter though as Real Maryland took the lead on their next possession. Dennis Alas had been spraying long balls to teammates all half. In the 35th minute, he looked up and floated a perfect pass from the midfield to Nilson Perez just beyond the Palace rear guard. Perez took the ball down with one touch and calmly slotted the ball past the onrushing Thompson with his second. 1-0 Real Maryland!

Crystal Palace Baltimore almost leveled affairs five minutes before halftime. A floated cross bypassed everyone in the center of the box and fell to Andrew Marshall just to the left of goal. The big right back was aiming for the far corner, but riffled his volley just over the crossbar.

Real Maryland started the second half the brighter of the two clubs creating their first chance less than a minute in. Nilson Perez layed the ball off for Cerritos at the top of the box, but the captain blasted his shot just wide.

Four minutes later Brindley took a ball down in the midfield and flicked it onto Perez 25 yards from goal. The Colombian wound up and sent a volley screaming in on goal. The ball had eyes for the net, but Zach Thompson made a diving save, tipping the ball over the crossbar.

On the ensuing corner, Ramirez got up well, but was unable to get his header on frame.

Real Maryland continued to have the run of play and in the 56th minute Ramirez was at it again. Alas quickly took a free kick, sending it to Ramirez whose streaking diagonal run took him in on goal, but Alex Ughiovhe got back to clear the ball away just as Ramirez was winding up to shoot. 

Crystal Palace Baltimore had a chance to tie from a corner kick in the 68th minute. Pat Healy rose unmarked in the center of the box. His header looked destined for the net, but Zelaya reacted well to tip the ball over the bar.

Real Maryland fashioned their last genuine chance in the 76th minute. Devlin Barnes stole the ball in midfield and sent it to Jose Maldonado on the wing. Maldonado’s cross was met by a Nilson Perez diving header, but his effort went just wide of the post.

Crystal Palace Baltimore pushed more players forward, setting up a nervy finale. Real Maryland head coach Silvino Gonzalo switched to a 4-5-1 by substituting Nilson Perez and installing Clint Loughner just in front of the back four. “When coach put me in, he told me to stay back, get in hard and distribute the ball,” Loughner said after the match. “Their coach kept putting subs in up top and they were trying to get the ball into the new guys. We were just trying to win the ball and send it up the field so we could hold on for the win.”

Palace continued to push for the equalizer and created a handful of opportunities and half chances in the final five minutes, but some poor finishing and a strong Monarchs’ defense preserved the 1-0 victory for Real Maryland.

Despite the win, Real Maryland coach Silvino Gonzalo was in a cautious mood with the season opener less then 2 weeks away. “I thought we could play better than we played,” Gonzalo said on his way to the locker room. “But a win is a win and I saw a lot of positive things to start the season. In general it was good for us. I think, as a team, the players did a great job.”

Center back Daryl Ferguson was a bit more jovial than his coach during his post-match assessment. “We played well. Crystal Palace is a very physical, strong team. From the get-go we matched them physically, speed wise, and we put one in early and that gave us momentum,” Ferguson said outside of the locker room.

Gonzalo signaled out the defense for special praise and Ferguson echoed his coach’s sentiments. “This is our best game as a unit thus far this preseason and I think if we can stick together as a unit, we won’t let in too many goals this year.”

The best news to come out of the game, however, is that the benefit match raised nearly $3,000 for the DeOrsey family. Both teams are happy that they could use this pre-season exercise to honor the memory of a man who dedicated so much of his time to the “beautiful game”.


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