AFC Cleveland were given a tough test against local youth academy Team Challenger FC, but came away with a 4-3 win in Saturday’s friendly.
The Royals welcomed TCFC to Stan Skoczen Stadium in another edition of the club’s yearly participation in a friendly with a local youth club. The match featured appearances from some of the Royals regular starters, but also saw others get valuable playing time ahead of a critical six-game push for the NPSL playoffs.
One of the most notable performances of the weekend came from forward Lolo Karpeh, who earned NOOMA Man of the Match honors after his involvement in three of the club’s four goals and his contributions in creating other opportunities throughout the match. Karpeh scored once, assisted newcomer Gianluca DiFranco, and earned a penalty kick on the night.
DiFranco also put in an impressive showing for his first match with the Royals. The club’s new midfielder showed poise orchestrating a counter attack in the 23′, and scored in his first appearance after touching the ball aside to Karpeh and making a back-post run, where his service was returned for a tap-in goal.
Gabriel Pewu also netted for the first time in his short Royals career connecting on a header sent into the box from the right flank by Bobi Cancar in the 87′.
TCFC’s Justin Libertowski was a force to be reckoned with throughout the match, scoring twice against the NPSL side and earning a late penalty kick. Despite his efforts, and TCFC’s three goals, AFC Cleveland’s offensive firepower overmatched TCFC as the visitors had to play from behind most of the game while their defense conceded four goals.
Around the league, AFC Cleveland got some help from Syracuse FC, who drew Erie Commodores 1-1, keeping the Commodores from increasing their impressive 2.5 points per game ratio over four games. Dayton Dynamo and Rochester Lancers, who the Royals are chasing in the Midwest East table, also dropped points this weekend when the two clubs drew 0-0 at Roger Glass Stadium in Dayton, closing the ppg gap at the top of the table.
The Royals will have two chances to make up ground this weekend against Fort Pitt Regiment with a home and away series against their Midwest East opponents. The Regiment will visit Stan Skoczen Stadium Friday before both squads head to Pittsburgh Sunday for the reverse fixture.
To see the Royals begin the second half of their NPSL campaign Friday against the Regiment, secure tickets now at afccleveland.com/tickets.