FC Columbus Falls, Not Fails, in Home Debut

“Jogo Bonito” is more than just a tagline for FC Columbus. This was evident to all in attendance at Grandview Heights on Sunday evening, when Columbus hosted Cleveland SC in a preseason friendly. The visitors claimed a 3-2 victory with a converted penalty kick in the closing moments, but this was never about the final result. It was about getting ready for the upcoming season. It was about showing National Premier Soccer League teams are playing a beautiful game in Ohio.

FC Columbus started the match on the front foot, utilizing long runs from the right back to create crossing chances. The home side, though, could not finish its opportunities. This allowed Cleveland SC to settle into the match and seize control of the scoreboard.

The first goal of the match came off the foot of Cleveland’s Mike Derezic in the 24th minute. Derezic received the ball in space, 35 yards from goal. When no one from FC Columbus closed him down, he hammered a shot from distance. Columbus goalkeeper Lorenzo Urian made a sprawling save attempt, but the shot rifled into the upper net.

SC Cleveland doubled its lead in the 40th minute, thanks to veteran Vinny Bell. A highly lofted chip from the right flank floated inside the 6-yard box, and Bell tracked it with a run through the center of the box. He managed to get just enough of the ball to bounce it into the net from point blank range.

After intermission, FC Columbus found itself on the front foot yet again. This time the home side made the most of its chances.

Columbus cut into the lead in the 52nd minute. Hometown legend, J.J. Bain chipped a curler from the left toward the far post. The Cleveland SC goalkeeper got the tips of his mitts onto the attempt, but David Blamo slid onto the rebound and netted the goal.

In the 73rd minute, FC Columbus erased the deficit entirely. A cross from the right soared over the head of a centrally located attacker, but Momadu Diallo was waiting at the far side of the box. Diallo collected the ball and rifled it into the back of the net.

A similar cross would eventually lead to the game winning goal for SC Cleveland. A Columbus defender acted with too much aggression during an aerial duel, resulting in a brief stoppage in play for an injury and a penalty kick. Admir Suljevic calmly stroked his chance from the mark into the goal.

Notes and Observations

  • Persistent rain helped to keep attendance down a bit, but fans who braved the weather did so with passion. Wolf’s Ride XII and Gate 5 Collective marched into the match with full voice, smoke, and flags. The Columbus supporters then unveiled an impressive three-piece tifo, complete with flares. A small, vocal portion of 6th City Syndicate was also on hand to make its support for Cleveland SC known.
  • Both sides truly played an attractive style of football with enough quality to entertain casual sports fans and hardcore supporters. They showed a willingness to build from the back, move the ball through the midfield with passes (rather than over the midfield with bombs), and create scoring chances with entries from multiple points. In general, the pace was good and there was intelligent movement off the ball. It was pleasing to watch.

A Thousand Words

Thanks to ISNSoccer.com for sharing these photos of the match by Ken Tishenkel

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