The Royals 2017 season came to an early end Friday with a 3-1 loss on the road against conference-rival FC Buffalo.
The squad went into the match knowing only a win would suffice in their quest to make the 2017 NPSL Playoffs, but had the rug pulled out from under them when chasing a go-ahead goal in the second half. For the second straight match, the club did well to create chances, but let their opponents stay in the game too long before they pressed higher and left the defense exposed for counter attacks.
FC Buffalo’s first goal came from talented forward Akean Shackleford in the 59′ after he was played through the Royals defensive line by Austin Stout on a counter-attack situation. Shackleford used his speed to create separation, and then finished the one-on-one opportunity as AFC Cleveland appealed for offside.
Up a goal, the Blitzers subbed on one of their regular starters, Kendell McFayden, in the 73′. McFayden, returning from an injury, wasted no time making an impression with a diving header goal just one minute later.
After a round of substitutions, Reymar Klochko pulled one back in the 82′ with a poke into the top netting, but McFayden returned the favor in minute 87 while on a breakaway counter-attack to end any hopes of a comeback.
Before the final whistle blew, red cards were issued to both Tom Beck and Mike Derezic, as well as FC Buffalo’s McFayden for their involvement in a 90th minute skirmish.
Klochko’s goal gave him his fourth tally of the season, an impressive mark for the first-year Royal who was mainly used as a super-sub in all competitions. Klochko ended the season as the only AFC Cleveland player to record a goal in the NPSL regular season, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Hank Steinbrecher Cup.
With the loss, AFC Cleveland ends their season with a record of 6-1-5, their fourth consecutive season with a .500 record or above. With 19 points in 12 matches, the Royals will finish fourth in the Midwest East Conference table just two points behind both first and second-place qualifiers Erie Commodores FC and Dayton Dynamo FC. The final table showed a difference of only three points between the top five teams in the conference.
Photo Credit: Joe Kolecki – Kolecki Photography