VaHi ATLetic FC continue their preparation for the 2012-13 ADASL season with a hard-nosed win over Atlanta Red Star FC. Red Star came to the game full of confidence having being promoted to play D2 ADSL soccer this season as well as being promoted to D3 in the 7 vs 7 Silverbacks Park League. A squad full of quality players that included last season’s D3 top goal scorer Wade Wadsworth.
ATLetic on the other hand is in full rebuilding mode and using pre-season matches to tune up the team for ADASL competition starting October 7th. The match started with both teams looking to impose their possession-style football. The first 20 minutes saw several good scoring chances for both teams.
ATLetic’s strikers Delv Clarke and Nico Garcia had a couple of chances that went wide or were saved by the keeper. ATLetic exposed crack’s in the Red Star defense specially on their left flank where Josh Merfeld’s pace allowed him to win the line and send dangerous crosses. However Red Star is a team that lives to attack and they kept ATLetic’s midfielders hands Felipe Lobelo and Jose Baltazar full. A Football mantra proved once again correct halfway on the 1st half when ATLetic’s lack of patience to finish their severa lscoring opportunities came back to haunt them. An error and lost ball on the right hand side of ATLetic’s defense saw a pressuring Red Star player an easy opportunity to score which he delicately put away past ATletic’s keeper Scott Stillwell. 1-0 Red Star. Although ATLetic’s FC back line with Franck Ellenbogen, Juan Torres and Jonathan Pearth had played confidently so far they were reminded that, at this level, errors and lack of assertiveness in defense are often translated into goals.
The 1st half finished with Red Star confidently moving the ball around looking for a second goal while ATLetic struggled to keep their backline and midfield in shape under Atlanta’s high heat and humidity conditions and with a roster of just 12 for the day. However late in the 1st half a counter attack opportunity for ATLetic was barely missed again when Faris Ghawi cut a defender in the box and blasted a shot off the crossbar.
For the 2nd half ATLetic started more composed and kept pushing for the equalizer. Lobelo and Baltazar kept looking for each other and that connection again almost paid off in the first 10 minutes. One of the Angolan trademark runs on the left wing saw him dispose of three Red Star defender’s before crossing it back in the box where Lobelo, after 40 yard sprint from his holding midfielder position, came to crash the box. He finished with a left foot chip over the keeper that unfortunately hit the post and came back straight to his hands.
However that disappointment was quickly turned around when ATLetic finally found the equalizer in an unusual play. Lobelo curled a free kick towards the PK spot in an attempt to find a crashing header – no one touched the ball, which bounced in front of the Red Star Keeper to end up in the back of the net.
With the equalizer both teams looked for the winning goal albeit keeping their backline safe. The battle in the midfield decided this game and it was again Balatzar who from the midfield push in the attack and attempting to release in the box found a PK when the ball was touched by the Red Star defender with his hand. Lobelo rose to the challenge again by sending the keeper one way and driving hard and low to opposite corner. 2-1 ATLetic.
The final 15 mins of the match saw Red Star applying relentless pressure looking for the equalizer. ATLetic’s backline and midfield found the necessary grit to close out the game with Scott Stilwell having key saves and poise in the goal line. ATLetic was also lucky Red Star players lacked the coolness to finish a couple of good chances but overall the game was closed out by a physical ATLetic team not giving up under pressure.
A good game overall for two teams that will be sharing the field at Boulevard Crossing Park this season. Red Star will surely do well in D2 given the firepower they have in attack but will also need to work out some kinks in defense and finish more of their chances. For VaHi ATLetic FC a very welcomed win against a tough opponent that had plenty of confidence and wind in their backs. Winning makes the necessary “gelling” process for a new team much easier. Above all a good show of the character, organization on the field and heart ATLetic will need to display to consistently win next season in search for promotion to D2.