The Royals grabbed three points in two weekend matches to reach the halfway point of their regular season.
AFC Cleveland returned to their dominant home form in a convincing 4-1 win against FC Buffalo, followed by a disappointing 3-0 loss on the road to Rochester Lancers.
The club will take the three points after dropping their previous two fixtures, but these and other results around the league have outlined a difficult path to overcome if the Royals are to make a third consecutive playoff appearance. The Royals currently sit fourth in the Midwest East Conference Standings three points behind Erie Commodores FC, six behind Rochester Lancers and nine behind Dayton Dynamo with games in hand on the Lancers and Dynamo.
Despite the three-goal difference in both weekend matches, the Royals took part in two hard-fought contests that could have gone either way. The first half of Friday’s tie with FC Buffalo ended with both sides tied at one following a converted penalty kick from Admir Suljevic and an astonishing volley from FC Buffalo’s Cameron Emerson.
The Royals stuck to their gameplan, specifically bringing the offense up the right side through Chris Cvecko and NOOMA Man of the Match Tom Beck. Beck scored twice in the late stages of the match, first after heading home a Skye Harter’s corner kick and again after converting a penalty kick drawn by substitute Ben Truax.
AFC Cleveland’s offensive persistence paid off as they used their eight-shot advantage to put themselves ahead in the second half and shut down their opponent’s offensive chances to see out a convincing 4-1 victory.
The Royals then hit the road to play Rochester Lancers in battle between two squads in playoff position. AFC Cleveland had to play from behind after an early defensive mistake gave the Lancers a counter opportunity with numbers, leading to a 7′ goal for forward William Stone.
After falling a goal behind, the Royals stormed back with a plethora of scoring opportunities, hitting the crossbar twice and generating other chances as they attempted to draw even, but the Lancers weathered the storm and extended their lead after a 26-yard shot from Lukas Fernandes dropped into the top right corner of the goal.
The Lancers would pick apart the Royals defense once more before the half to put the game out of reach for the Royals, but kept their defensive effort up on a hot day in Rochester to stall AFC Cleveland’s defense until the final whistle. The lopsided scoreline came with AFC Cleveland out-shooting the Lancers seven to five, and earning seven corners to their opponent’s zero.
The Royals can look for revenge against the Lancers at home July 7, but will first host Challenger FC in a local friendly this Saturday. Tickets for the match are now available at afccleveland.com/tickets.
Photo Credit: Jaylan Fryer