AFC Cleveland experienced double trouble this past weekend with a pair of tightly contested losses in NPSL Midwest East Conference play.
The Royals first weekend fixture saw the club fall 1-0 in an Ohio derby against Dayton Dynamo. The road loss was the club’s first setback of the season and propelled the Dynamo to the top of the conference table. The Dayton side slowed down a Royals offense that had been rolling coming into the weekend and capitalized on a corner kick to put in the match’s only goal.
After the tough loss, AFC Cleveland looked to regain their form at home, where they hadn’t lost since 2014. Their hopes took a massive hit early in the match against Erie Commodores FC when midfielder Mike Derezic was issued a red card in the fourth minute. Playing at a man disadvantage for almost the entire match, the Royals hung with the Commodores and kept a shutout in the first half.
After conceding a goal in the second half, AFC Cleveland were forced to make offensive adjustments to push for an equalizer. Forward Benjamin Truax entered the game and immediately made an impact connecting with fellow forward and Nooma Man of the Match Vinny Bell. Truax’s touch through the Commodores defense was chased down by Bell, who was fouled in the goal area after beating the defender to the ball. Captain Admir Suljevic netted his second goal of the regular season on the ensuing penalty kick.
Despite leaving the weekend empty-handed, the Royals found positives in their performance and remain dedicated to the expectations set before the season.
“Anytime you can get a goal with ten men and hold onto a draw for 95 minutes, I think that’s a pretty positive thing,” said Vinny Bell. “Going forward we’re pretty confident we can beat any team in our conference and we’ll make another run at winning it.”
Head Coach Mike Sesar was impressed with how his team carried on against Erie while a man down on a hot and humid afternoon at Stan Skoczen Stadium.
“We fought back and got in the game; You wouldn’t have even noticed we were a man down,” said Sesar. “We were carrying the play and fighting for a result — We went after them, tied the game and even had a few chances at the end from corners.”
Moving forward, Sesar emphasized to his players the importance of reducing mistakes to earn points in the final stretch of the season.
“It’s the little things in soccer, the mistakes that are made, that have to be limited,” said Sesar. “If you make little mistakes it costs you goals and we carried the play but made mistakes that ultimately cost us two goals we didn’t need to give up.”
AFC Cleveland look to bounce back this weekend in the Steinbrecher Cup, hosted at Stan Skoczen Stadium. The Royals will play Christos FC Friday, June 2, at 8:00 pm and could play for the title June 3 against USL PDL champions Michigan Bucks or defending Steinbrecher Cup champions FC United.
Visitors can still purchase passes for both days of the Steinbrecher Cup at afccleveland.com/tickets. Single-day passes are also available for each day of the tournament.
Photo Credit: Gary Wiggins