VFQ: United Through & Through

Mass United earned its first National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) win of the season on Saturday with a 2-1 decision over former USL-PRO side FC New York (FCNY) at Lynn’s Manning Field. The win was a total team effort, with all 11 players on the pitch working together to make their defensive third seem at times impenetrable.

United’s unity, if you will, was evident from the opening whistle. With midfielders and defenders working together to keep the ball away from the visitors and patiently awaiting their chance to attack. As is so often the case in that scenario however, the first good chance of the game went to FC New York in the 7th minute but a muffed shot attempt kept it scoreless. The first shot on target for United came in the 13th when a fine save by FCNY keeper Hector Guerrero prevented midfielder Kyle Sye from giving the Riders a one goal lead.

United players from L-R: Denivaldo DaSilva (20); John Bavota (7); Admilson Miranda (being foulded); Romeo Zeqo (10)

With both sides pushing hard for the opening goal it was clear United would have to continue their hard working single-mindedness throughout the game. A task they were more than ready for. The back line of Adrian Kawuba, Ryan Palingo, Ben Johnson and Babacar Ndour, along with defensive midfielder Christopher Sharpe, were not only stellar defensively, but also assisted in the attack, quickly moving the ball forward to keep FCNY not only on their heels, but often spinning on them to deal with runs from United forwards Denivaldo DaSilva and John Bavota. United midfielder Romeo Zeqo was a big part of this as well, not only offensively, but also tracking back and covering, which allowed United’s Kawuba to make several runs down the left side.

United defender Babacar Ndour starts the attack with midfielder Christopher "Shorty" Sharpe

Head Coach Jim Antonakas shook things up a bit in the 36th minute when he subbed in Marcus Pizzetti for Sye, moving him to forward and Bavota to the wing. The move almost bore fruit immediately when a Pizzetti shot gave the keeper a bit of trouble. It was beginning to look like a scoreless first half was inevitable when in the 43rd minute United forward Deni DaSilva took the ball just past midfield and charged forward, taking the FCNY defense by surprise and blowing by them on the way to goal. A deft rounding of Guerrero and well placed shot later, it was 1-0 to United.

The form displayed in the first half by United continued into the second, with FCNY showing signs of frustration after only a few minutes. This was in part thanks to saves from United keeper Baboucarr ‘Babs’ Njie, who turned away what few opportunities the visitors had. United seemed to take firm control of the game in the 60th minute when a beautiful feed from midfielder Admilson Miranda left Marcus Pizzetti one-on-one with a defender on the right side. Pizzetti pushed the ball back inside just enough to let fly a curling shot with his left foot that ringed off the post and in to give United a 2-0 lead. An awakened FC New York would not go quietly, however. Almost as soon as United doubled their lead, FCNY struck back to halve the deficit once again. The goal came off a corner kick that somehow ended with goal-scorer Tyler Bothe and three other FCNY players alone in front of the net. Any one of them could have put it in. With the score now 2-1, it was time for United to retake control. Which they did.

After withstanding an FCNY surge after their goal, the Riders were once again able to shut down the visitors, almost adding a third goal when Pizzetti’s header from a DaSilva cross went over the bar in the 88th minute. The last chance for FCNY came via a stoppage time corner but the kick was snatched out of the air by Babs and moments later the final whistle drew this tremendous team effort to a close. One thing the stats from this game do not show you (shots were even at 11 and FCNY earned twice as many corners) was just how well and how cohesively the Riders played. There are no stats for backtracking, or for unrewarded runs, or just being in the right place at the right time, but if there were, it would be clear why United won this game. Every player on the field proved that they are United, through and through.


NEXT MATCH: 5/26 @ Brooklyn Italians