Prior to Friday’s contest against rival Erie, Buffalo head coach Frank Butcher called the contest the biggest game so far in his tenure as the Wolves’ bench boss. With a win, Buffalo would have 20 points on the season, tying Erie on top of the National Premier Soccer League’s Eastern Conference.
A win put Buffalo in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. Unfortunately for FC Buffalo and their fans, the playoffs are now likely out of the picture as Erie cruised to a 4-0 win at All High Stadium.
It was evident early that Erie’s offense was pressing harder than Buffalo’s and only 12 minutes in Erie opened the scoring on a Fernando Martinez goal. Kwame Opoku applied the pressure on FC Buffalo’s defense forcing a turnover near midfield.
Opoku flicked a pass ahead to Jack Simpson, who quickly sent another pass to Martinez at the top of the Buffalo box and his low shot found the back of the net.
Following the goal, Buffalo’s offense briefly woke up. In the 21st minute, Buffalo nearly capitalized on an opportunity as Akean Shackleford dished a pass to Sammy Wasson to the right of Erie keeper Nicolau Neto. From just outside of the penalty area but Wasson’s shot skimmed the crossbar.
The miss turned out to be a crucial one as two minutes later Erie took the 2-0 lead as Opoku cut in from the right wing on the fast break and dished a quick pass to Simpson in the middle where he slotted a close-range shot into the Wolves’ goal.
The lead held to half for Erie and down 2-0 with their playoff hopes on the line, Buffalo did come out in the second half as the stronger team.
Eight minutes in Buffalo had their best scoring chance of the day as Kendell McFayden fired a shot from just outside the penalty area and rung the crossbar. On the rebound, Shackleford headed the ball into the goal but was flagged offside.
Then some controversy. McFayden went up from a header in the middle of Erie’s box with defender Andrew Bennett in the 57th minute. McFayden got a piece of the ball and an outstretched arm for Bennett connected with the ball.
By rule, Buffalo should have earned a penalty kick but was not awarded one.
The tough series of events early in the half was something the Wolves just couldn’t overcome as disaster struck in the 73rd minute as Buffalo defender Robert Williamson sent a pass back to goalkeeper Jeremy Figler. The pass didn’t have enough on it though and Simpson swooped in for the steal and scored easily, bringing the score to 3-0.
Five minutes later, Jacob Alatorre fired a shot from point-blank range which Figler made a spectacular stop on, but Alatorre followed his rebound for the easy goal on a header for the 4-0 lead which Erie took to the finish line.
On his team’s defensive struggles, Butcher said Buffalo missed center back Euan Bauld who was not fit to play throughout the day.
“He’s a guy who played every minute for us back there so you start switching and guys are playing in spots they’re not really used to,” Butcher said.
The coach also admitted that the tough calls early in the second half made the loss just a bit tougher as well.
“For sure. Any point on there, you get the one, then you’re switching it around. We just weren’t good enough today,” Butcher said. “We need a miracle to get through [to the playoffs] and all we can do is play what’s in front of us.”
Buffalo’s next outing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 7th at FC Binghamton.
Pics Courtesy of Nick Wojton