Rocket City United held their final tune-up before the season opener in an Alabama derby match against Birmingham Pumas at 7:30 PM next Saturday at the Madison City Schools Stadium. Two spirited sides, combined from RCU's first team and reserve rosters, faced each other in a Red-Black scrimmage that ended in a 1:1 scoreline.
After driving down I-65 to scout next week's opponent Birmingham Pumas, who beat Atlanta FC 1:0 in the NPSL Southeast Region opener the night before, RCU head coach Desmond Armstrong was able to focus on his team. Perhaps understanding that this was the final chance to be named in the opening day 18, the players on both teams came out in the first half with a frantic pace. Each team played a high line, leaving little room to maneuver and less time to react, resulting in play that was more disjointed than sublime. The Reds struck first late in the first half on one of the few real chances for either team. Derek Pirtle pounced on a loose ball six yards from goal and left Jeffery Preston no chance in goal for the Blacks. Good work from Sutton Shults, who has been converted to a right back in recent days, thrilled the fans along the high fenced sideline, but the Red were not able to further capitalize, and the half ended with Red 1, Blacks 0.
In the second half, the high pace took its toll, and the game opened up as a result. It was the Blacks who got the better of the play early, as Stacy Terry hit a nice side volley from 10 yards after a scrum in the penalty area left the ball bounding his way. The Blacks nearly took the lead when Oscar Leon worked himself free and laced a dipping 20-yarder that Tyler Early just palmed over the bar. As the match drew to a close, the Reds dialed up the pressure and both sides were recipients of crunching tackles. Reds winger Andrew Nkurunungi found himself breaking into the area with a good look at goal with about ten minutes left. However, his near post shot was parried away by the lunging Paul Musoke who had replaced Preston in the Blacks' goal at halftime. Neither team would come closer than that and full time ended with both sides tallying once.