Real Maryland 3- Cleveland City Stars 2
After getting run out of Cleveland last weekend, Real Maryland came up with the perfect revenge, coming from two goals down to defeat the City Stars 3-2 in front of the Monarchs’ boisterous supporters at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
So what was the difference between this week and last week? How could a team that goes down 4-0 in Cleveland and then 2-0 in the first 16 minutes of Saturday’s rematch come back to claim all three points?
“The biggest difference was that we were home,” Midfielder Muner Hassen said after the game. “We saw the fans out there going crazy and we feed off that. That’s the big difference. You don’t want to disappoint at home.”
The truth is, however, that a lot more contributed to Real Maryland’s stunning come from behind victory.
After the first 20 minutes, the Monarchs finally settled down and maintained possession of the ball. In Cleveland, Real Maryland could not put more than two passes together, but their ability to keep the ball meant that Cleveland, a very dangerous offensive team, could not generate any attacking movement. This is a prime example that the best defense is often offense.
The inclusion of Angel Higueras (available for the first time this season after being sidelined with an ankle injury he sustained against Crystal Palace Baltimore in pre-season) in the midfield allowed Dennis Alas to push further up the field. Last weekend, Alas sat too far back, playing just in front of the defenders and leaving spaces in the midfield. This weekend, however, Higueras had a monster game in the holding role while Alas responded with two goals. In addition, the Salvadorian international’s passing was much more effective in the attacking end.
Devlin Barnes missed last weekend through suspension. Barnes’ presences Saturday night seemed to calm down a much better organized back line. Barnes always looks calm no matter how much pressure he is under. His calming influence, positional play, and solid tackling reduced Cleveland’s ability to attack down the flank, an area where they killed Real Maryland last weekend. Despite scoring two early goals, Cleveland’s attack didn’t look nearly as threatening as it did every time they came forward in Cleveland.
Reduction of mistakes:
Last weekend, Cleveland scored its first two goals on horrendous defensive errors by Real Maryland. This weekend, however, the Monarchs not only reduced their mistakes in the back, but all over the field. Real Maryland showed that if they can play mistake free soccer, they can be a solid unit that can run with any team in USL-2 for a full 90 minutes.
Last weekend, head coach Silvino Gonzalo admitted that the substitutions he made did not work out. This weekend, however, Gonzalo got his changes right as each player came off the bench to great effect. Teodoro Ramirez came on for his namesake Victor Ramirez after only 23 minutes. His hard running up and down the flanks stretched out the Cleveland defense and it was his smart pass that set up the first goal for Dennis Alas.
Jose Maldonado came in for Angel Higueras and held down the midfield holding role for the final 10 minutes, keeping his positioning and helping out with the defense.
Foday Kamara came on as Gonzalo took off attacker Nilson Perez in favor of an extra defender to kill the game. Kamara did his job to help keep Cleveland off the board as they bombarded the Monarchs’ net in the game’s final exchanges.
After giving up a goal just seven minutes in and two goals in 16 minutes, players could be forgiven for having that sinking feeling that a repeat of last weekend seemed inevitable. “I’ll admit that thought came into my mind,” defender Daryl Ferguson said after the match, “but you just got to fight through adversity. Getting that first goal back is all it takes.” It seemed like the team gave up after conceding the first two goals last weekend, but Saturday the team fought for 90 minutes and has all three points and a spot in the US Open Cup to show for their efforts.
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