Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Flames suffocate Rays, 1-0

The Rhode Island Stingrays kicked off against the Westchester Flames on a warm and dry summer night on Saturday, as the home side hoped to continue their winning ways after their 2-0 win vs. Albany earlier in the week.

Both teams tried to discover their offensive attacks in the early going, but it was the Stingrays who were able to muster the first true scoring chance in the 8th minute, when Jonathan Pereira cut into the Westchester box and laced a quick shot, forcing keeper Brett Pollack to make a diving save.

At the 11 minute mark, keeper Josh Ford made a nice save on a Flame rocket launched by . Both teams continued to trade possessions like poker chips soon thereafter, as the ball floated betwixt players on the multi-green patched Pierce Field pitch.

During a wonderful sequence for the home side took place in the 24th minute when Dawid Badecki took a beautiful feed from Lukacz Tumicz in the box, took one touch, spun, and fired a clear shot on goal before the threatening ball was blocked by the Westchester keeper.

As the lights began to cast shadows on the players in the 34h, the road club began to organize its attack on a few keys chances. On a Flame free kick Alex Tobon, the ball appeared to be en route to the top shelf before the cross bar turned the shot away.

Under the twilight sky, the Rays begin to mount their attack, as the time of possession began to re-enter the 50/50 range. In 45th minute, midfielder Jefferson Rojas clanked a free kick off the right crossbar, giving the Rays one last chance to jump ahead prior to the end of the first half.

The Rays kicked off the second half poised to acquire the first goal of the game, after the Westchester defense that had snuffed out the usually-potent Stingray attack in the first frame.
However, both defenses took center stage in the opening minutes of said second frame, as the bulk of the action occurred within the middle third of the field.

Both teams struggled to set a consistent tempo, with missed on passes and poor runs abound, and the offensive opportunities previously seen sporadically in the first have became scarcer as the clock ticked on.

The fortunes of the home club soured significantly in the 62nd minute, when Badecki earned his second yellow of the match on a hard challenge of the ball near midfield. Sensing the need to make up for the man-disadvantage, Mario Pereira immediately dispatched Danny Ortiz and Benjamin Brackett in the 64th minute as substitutes.

The Stingrays did their best to hold the fort together despite being a man down. However, it was too much for Pereira’s boys to handle when, in the 70th minute, Flames’ midfielder Scott Bolkin crashed the Stingray box amid a gaggle of defenders before launching the heartbreaking goal that bulged the bright orange twine.

The Rays re-organized their attack once more in the 76th minute, as they continued to search for the equalizer. A string of well-placed passes through the Westchester zone kick started an impressive attack that ultimately fell short on a short range shot by Ortiz that was smothered by the Westchester keeper.

As a menacing red moon began to rise above the west stands, the game reached into stoppage time, and the Rays pressing to find the elusive equalizer. Unfortunately, time ran out on the Rays, as they fell to Westchester by a final score of 1-0.

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