Monday, May 11, 2009

RCU Picks Up Year's First Victory

First, I must apologize for being tardy with this post. Mother's Day and work commitments got in the way. :)

Rocket City United got its first win of the 2009 campaign thumping Pumas FC of Birmingham 5:2 at the UAB 's West Campus Field. Light rain started to dampen the field before the game as a slight breeze cooled the crowd of about 100, but dark clouds loomed on the horizon foreshadowing the troubles RCU would cause the Pumas backline.

RCUs attacking throttle was wide open from the start as Kempess Villafana fired high from distance seconds after the opening whistle. This attacking mentality paid dividends shortly after, when winger Paul Willoughby beat Pumas defender Sibusiso Macwele to volley home a Daniel Segewitz cross to take the early lead. Macwele had been a target of RCU's brass before signing on with Pumas. RCU continued to press game as PT Huang and Jesus Delgado had quality looks only to have the woodwork and a fine save from the Pumas keeper deny their opportunities.

Thirty minutes in and Villafana's successful day ended early as he suffered a hamstring pull after creating excitement with his mazy runs. RCU's attack did not hesitate though, as Michael Biggs drew the attention of the Pumas defenders before allowing a cross to dummy onto the foot of Barbosa. The Pumas keeper responded in time to deny Barbosa's attempt. Villafana's replacement, Sutton Shults, got himself involved quickly by slamming his shot into near side netting just wide of the upright minutes after entering.

Jason Sabio commits to the tackle

Although the RCU offense had its boosters firing , the RCU defense had some initial trouble answering the Pumas midfield riddle. Pumas sported an unconventional 4-1-3-2 formation flooding the center of the pitch with bodies and using the outside backs to patrol up and down the touchline. RCUs defensive core wavered only once as Pumas forward Derek Rios slipped through with only RCU keeper Tyler Early to beat. Rios found his footing failed him and his shot skidded desperately wide from 12 yards out. RCU coach Greg Petersen recognized the Cats' ploys and countered by replacing the attack minded Huang with midfield sparkplug Enrici Simeone, and RCU ensnared Pumas in the offside trap time and again and the half ended with RCU up by a goal.

Pumas coach Rolando Hernandez had his squad motivated for the second stanza, and it was Rios who was denied an equalizing goal by Tyler Early's reflexes. The RCU substitute, Shults, continued to stir up trouble for the Pumas defenders with several deep runs and crosses. One of them was met by Delgado who found himself at the far post to nod home the game's second goal in the 57th minute.

It was Barbosa who then worked up a moment of brilliance to put the match out of reach. After muscling through 3 defenders who were seemingly attempting to disrobe him, Rafa found himself in front of the onrushing Pumas goalkeeper. Full marks go to the referee who realized he was witnessing a masterpiece in the making and allowed the artist Barbosa to place the final stroke. The Brazilian wonder scooped the ball up and over the keeper from 16 yards in a display strength and determination in an age when most forwards would have cynically fallen down and settled for a PK. Barbosa left the field to an ovation after he was replaced shortly thereafter by Derek Pirtle.

With the Pumas will broken, Michael Biggs rose to convert a Willoughby corner in the 68th minute. A few minutes later, Willoughby then book-ended his night with a nicely taken goal. After receiving a good ball from Jason Sabio out wide right, Willoughby rode Macwele's lunging challenge just inside the penalty area. He did well to keep his footing , recover, and chip the on-rushing keeper to the far post.

Then late in the second half, the rains came making visibility difficult and footing treacherous. It was Pumas who adjusted to the conditions better and were able to pull two goals back spoiling Tyler Early's shutout. Full time was called about 5 minutes early when lightening bolts danced a little too close for safety's sake, and Rocket City United picked it's first win of the season.

Notes: Rocket City United reserves fell 0:3 to the Pumas reserves prior to first team match… Rocket City United will host a College Scouting Combine in conjunction with Heroes Futbol Association at John Hunt Soccer Park on May 16-17. College soccer scouts will watch the areas top high school talent.

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