Empire had an assignment today one which has always turned out to be a grueling task. Today we were scheduled to play against Bullets who have been a fierce competitor over the last several years. The game was slated for 5:00 pm at the ARG.
Our 2015-Defender-of-the-year, Jupa was struck off the DL and returned to active duty for this game, after being out for three games. Our team made some adjustments and played a 3-5-2 formation with Balla and Yayya playing in front of the defense. We looked sharper, more aggressive and more determined to play than we have for the past three games. Also back from the DL was Buty who started the game on the forward line with Swazo.
Despite our control of the center of the park, most of our attacks were on our right flank; but most of the balls going out to that side of the pitch ended up in the hands of the opponent. Bullets came at us as if they anticipated that we would cave in. About the middle of the first half, they were able to come down our left side, got around the defense and crossed the ball. It fell about three yards inside out 18 to an unmarked player who was able to strike home from close range to give the opponent a one-goal lead.
We struggled to put a decent attack together and our pains and frustrations continued into the second half when Starty was substituted for Junior ‘Steel’ Emanuel, who was making his second appearance for the team. Things started to swing in our favour as Steel was getting down the flank and crossing the ball, which wasn’t happening before in the game. At the same time Snacks began to play, bobbing and weaving between the opponents. Buty’s persistence with running at the defenders started to pay dividends and about midway into the second half a rebound was chased by Swazo and the opponent’s keeper, and the keepers eventually took him down in the box. The penalty was awarded to us and captain Yayya took the kick which was saved by the goalkeeper, but Steel was there to pepper it home for the equalizer. Steel ran to his fans in the bleacher stand where he went over the fence celebrating his goal, along with two other players. The referee calmly waited for their return and penalized the three players with the yellow card.
At this point of the game, it appeared as if our players felt that they could take all the marbles in this encounter and went at Bullets as if they wanted to win. It might have been the first time for the season that we were witnessing this attitude. Bullets did not just play dead, however, but had their share of the game and made several runs at our goal, and in one of the bouts our keepers, Randy, went up for a ball and came down hard as he was pushed by an opponent. After a few minutes of attention from the physio, he was able to continue, but soon left the field as he went down for a second time and was eventually substituted for Solano.
A long ball came over and Buty made a chase at it and was able to get between the defender and their goalkeeper and flick the ball at the goal. The keeper was sharp in pushing it away, but fortunately for us, he pushed it in the path of the approaching Swazo who nodded it home. The second goal seemed to take the wind out of Bullets sail, and apart from a few feeble attempts at our goal afterwards, that remained as the final score; Empire 2: Bullets 1.