Game 1 Friday
(click link above for Game 1 coverage)
Game 2 Sunday
Cleveland SC (CSC) had a quick turnaround for their second game of the week with a Father’s Day trip to Pittsburgh to battle the second place Hotspurs (PHS). This was the first of three meetings between the two clubs vying for the two playoff spots in the NPSL’s Rustbelt Conference. And at Founder’s Field in Cheswick, PA, northeast of Pittsburgh, the Hotspurs grabbed the first win with a 2-1 victory over CSC.
(Starting Eleven for Cleveland SC)
A Cleveland scoring chance came quickly in the first minute as a ball bounced on the grassy turf over the Pittsburgh defender and Cleveland’s first shot, taken by forward Andrew Nicholas, went wide right of the goal. Shortly after CSC was awarded a corner kick. The outswinging kick was cleared harmlessly by PHS.
Founder’s Field is a grass turf and home to Pittsburgh’s national rugby team, the Harlequins. Cleveland seemed to be starting in a higher, pressing game, trying to get a quick goal, but they also seemed to struggle on the grass surface. Cleveland had a few starters who did NOT see the field in Friday’s win. But the play early on seemed sloppy and disjointed from both teams.
PHS first chance came in the 10th minute where a kick from outside the box cleared the top crossbar for a goal kick. In the 30th minute, Pittsburgh had a corner kick that appeared to be punched away by goalie Connor Cable, only to be headed back into the box. The Cleveland defense finally removed the ball from danger.
In the 37th minute Cleveland lifted a ball into the box, but no one ran to it and fell to the goalkeeper. The play was physical with teams exchanging fouls. The middle of the pitch was where most action occurred during this stretch of play. But in the 39th minute, Pittsburgh struck.
After a steal PHS moved the ball well from side to side. A quick pass into the midfield was met with another quick outlet that made it between two Cleveland defenders. Pittsburgh’s Tate Mohney, a center midfielder, grabbed the pass and, moving left, used his right foot for a hard swinging shot from around 25 yards out that curled around the outstretched hand of Cable into the upper portion of the net for the first goal. 1-0, for the men from Pennsylvania.
After that goal, Cleveland seemed to kick up their play. Their passes were crisp, and cuts were into space. The work was rewarded with an attempt. Cleveland held the ball on the far-left side of the field, just beyond the box. Some nice spin moves, and Cleveland had a man in the box! Quickly, PHS had three defenders fly to the ball and touched it away, but a quick, left-footed strike was mishit somewhat, and the Cleveland shot went left of goal. The half wasn’t completed, and Cleveland had another chance. In the 44th minute, a corner was awarded to Cleveland and Mikey Derezic took the corner. The ball was punched out and finally cleared by PHS. But Nagucki saw the ball come to him. And a well struck shot flew to the left top corner of the Pittsburgh goal where the ball nicked the top crossbar and bounded out of play. And the half ended shortly thereafter.
— Cleveland SC (@SoccerCLE) June 19, 2022
The second half started with both clubs having chances and corners. But being down a goal forced Cleveland to be more aggressive and take chances. With those chances Pittsburgh had counters throughout the course of the second half.
The 8th minute saw Cleveland with a corner that came hot into the box and the header by Cleveland was sent to the back end of the box where the men from The Land couldn’t get a boot on it.
A foul occurred about seven yards outside the box by Cleveland in the 61st minute. Jack Emanuel took the free kick. The kick came into the box and a Pittsburgh player looked like he was going to bicycle kick it in, but the ball missed him and surprised Cable as it flew past his left side into the net. Now, CSC was down two goals.
Cleveland kept up the pressure. In the 79th minute a shot on PHS goal was just wide right. But the pressure would break the Pittsburgh defense. PHS was playing a bit deeper with the two-goal lead, but Cleveland received a break in the 87th minute. A hand ball was called on the Pittsburgh defender in their box. Admir Suljevic slotted the ball to the right as the goalkeeper went the opposite way.
Admir converts! Goal! Down a goal. Come on boys! #WeAreCLE
— Cleveland SC (@SoccerCLE) June 19, 2022
Cleveland had numerous chances over the final five minutes, but they were unsuccessful. The final was 2-1 and it brought the two teams in a tie at the top with both at 15 points, though Cleveland does have a game in hand.
This was Cleveland’s first loss in the Rustbelt conference since 2019. The club’s social media had a great way to look at this:
A lot has happened since we had a Conference match without picking up points. Until yesterday, we have not lost a match in 21 tries, winning 19 of those and outscoring our opponents 59 to 19.
Let’s look back at a few events since June 2nd, 2019 when we lost 2-1 in Rochester, NY pic.twitter.com/RAaZKxbRbf
— Cleveland SC (@SoccerCLE) June 20, 2022
These two teams meet two more times this summer, with the next game this Friday evening in Cleveland at George Finnie Stadium. Get your tickets at clevelandsc.com/tickets for Cleveland’s revenge game. And remember what Kahn, in the movie Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn (1982), told Captain Kirk: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Friday in Berea should be a wild match!
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