AFC Cleveland came away with three points from two matches this weekend, falling 2-1 to the Indiana Fire on the road Friday before defeating Fort Pitt Regiment 2-1 at home Saturday.
Under the late afternoon sun, making their debut at their new stadium on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, the Royals’ aggressive play helped separate them from the Fort Pitt Regiment. Having played a game yesterday, the Royals came out a bit sluggish. Reliable passers Antonio Manfut, Chris Fairley, and Mikey McGlaughlin were heavy on their initial passes, resulting in multiple early turnovers.
The slow start did not last long, as forward Vinny Bell knocked in a goal in the 19th minute. Manfut intercepted a pass from a Pittsburg defender, using his chest to put the ball at his feet. After a quick touch, Manfut passed to Bell, who noticed the keeper was out of position. Chipping the ball over the keeper, Bell notched his second home goal in two weeks.
Throughout the first half, defender Zach Hayden made tremendous runs up the right side of the pitch. Hayden, who did not play yesterday in the loss to Indiana, came ready to play. Once reaching the 18 yard box, Hayden would cut through the Pittsburgh center backs, launching in shots or passes.
Right as the game resumed after half, the Cleveland offense struck again. After switching sides of the field, Antonio Manfut delivered in a great ball from the left corner, hitting defender Derek Creviston for a perfect header. With a 2-0 lead at this point, AFC Cleveland head coach Andy Hoggarth knew his players were wearing out. Hoggarth subbed off Manfut and forward Adam Mitchell, who scored the lone goal against the Fire, in the 57th minute.
In the second half, Bell continued to dominate up top. Using his size, he would turn defenders with his shoulders, allowing him to get in great position to attack. After the game Bell credited his midfielders for giving him opportunities to score.
“We were moving the ball around well. Great guys on the outside, great guys on the inside, so its pretty easy if they can just find my feet, I always know I have someone to go to.”
The For Pitt Regiment did have some fight left in the tank near the end of the game, as they did manage to score a goal in the 78th minute. On a late corner from Pittsburgh’s left side, Regiment defender Nick DiSomma got a piece of the ball, beating Royals goalkeeper Anthony Flowers, putting the ball into the opposite corner of the net.