The AFC Cleveland Royals earned their third consecutive victory and clean sheet in a 2-0 home triumph against Syracuse FC Saturday evening.
The win gave the Royals their second season sweep of a Midwest East Conference opponent after defeating Fort Pitt twice in one weekend. The three points earned by AFC Cleveland also launched them into second in the table in points per game, which would be good enough to earn an NPSL playoff spot if the club can hold onto its position.
The Royals went into Saturday’s match firing on all cylinders after their two wins against Fort Pitt and displayed a strong, well-rested lineup aside from the absence of Admir Suljevic, who is still recovering from a back injury. Head Coach Mike Sesar slightly altered the lineup to make room for in-form Yianni Sarris and Bobi Cancar alongside the club’s regular starters. The most notable change was moving David Jordan higher up the field into a left-winger position as opposed to his usual left fullback starting spot. This move paid off in spades as Jordan put together a NOOMA Man of the Match performance with a goal and assist as he was a terror along the left side in his 77 minutes of playing time.
Tom Beck also continued his blistering run of form with the match’s opening goal, his third in four regular season appearances. Beck snuck a header past Syracuse FC goalkeeper Pat Castle after meeting a superb cross from Jordan.
The score could have been even more favorable to the Royals had Castle not made a few excellent saves, and if his defense had not cleared a couple point-blank opportunities at the goal line. Vinny Bell would like another chance at a first half opportunity when he was fed the ball into open space by Beck. The pass left Castle stranded and gave Bell an open goal to shoot at, but a Syracuse FC defender stepped in at the goalline to clear the ball at the last second.
AFC Cleveland’s substitutes put in another strong showing to close out the club’s third consecutive clean sheet and keep high offensive pressure until the end of the match. In addition to Lolo Karpeh’s late assist, substitute Ben Truax looked to have scored when he was played into the box by Gianluca DiFranco, and though his shot slid past Castle, he was judged offside on the initial pass by the assistant referee.
Syracuse FC’s comeback hoped were dealt a significant blow in the 58’ when Macain Spragling was issued a red card after a heated exchange following a foul committed Beck. When the dust settled, Mike Derezic, Declan McGivern, and Yianni Sarris were given yellow cards for their role in the affairs.
The weekend also brought a handful of positive results for the Royals in other Midwest East competitions. First, the Erie Commodores suffered their first loss of the season to FC Buffalo, narrowing the points per game gap between the top four teams. Then, first-place in total points Dayton Dynamo were upset by Fort Pitt Regiment, a result that puts their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy as they only have one match remaining. Finally, a top four battle between Erie Commodores and Rochester Lancers ended in a 2-1 advantage for the Commodores, sending the Lancers’ points per game below AFC Cleveland’s.
PPG goes out the window this Friday as the Royals take on the Lancers at home in a match that could effectively eliminate one of the two sides from the playoffs. The stakes will be just as high Sunday as the Royals travel to Erie for match 11 against the Commodores.
Friday is the last regular season home game at Stan Skoczen Stadium for 2017. Make sure you don’t miss AFC Cleveland defend their national championship by securing tickets at afccleveland.com/tickets.
Photo Credit: T.J. Powell