FC Buffalo Win to move into Third Place With Victory Over Lansing United

FC Buffalo defeated Lansing United 3-0 Friday night in a physical, chippy game to overtake Lansing United for third place in the Midwest Division.  Four teams from the each division make the playoffs, so moving from fourth to third with the three points from the win gives FC Buffalo a bit of room to breath.  Considering that the loss bumped Lansing down to fifth and the same could have happened to Buffalo, it’s no wonder that both teams brought a lot of energy to the contest.

Things started with a bang as Ngwese Ebangwese scored first for Buffalo less than a minute into the game.  Receiving a pass from Anthony Rozzano in the midfield, he turned past the defender, took a touch past the sweeper, who misplayed the space and fell, and hit one past Lansing goalkeeper Wes Mink.  However, Buffalo did little with the early lead, just barely hanging on through most of the first half.  Fox Slotemaker was booked for tripping trying to keep speedy Lansing forward Stephen Owusu from getting close with space in the 29th minute.  A minute later, Lansing would nearly score with a low shot through a crowded box, but Adam Lauko cleared the ball off the goal line after it was already past keeper Andrew Coughlin.  Lansing continued to pressure until the end of the half.

 Lansing forward Stephen Owusu gets up after being tripped at 29'  He stayed down to readjust his cleats, which is why FC Buffalo players are already putting together the wall for the upcoming Lansing free kick.

Lansing forward Stephen Owusu gets up after being tripped at 29'  He stayed down to readjust his cleats, which is why FC Buffalo players are already putting together the wall for the upcoming Lansing free kick.

Part of the reason for the Lansing press was the lack of offensive possession for Buffalo in the first half.  The service continued to be inaccurate and Ebangwese, after his initial goal, showed a lack of motivation, not pursuing passes that weren’t directly at his feet and winning almost none of the fifty-fifty balls in his vicinity.  This was especially true with balls in the air, which were headed out by Lansing defenders without Ebangwese even contesting them.

In the second half, it was clear Manager Brendan Murphy felt that fixing the offense would be the best defense.  FC Buffalo started the half by changing out both the right and left midfielders, including putting in Brett Larocque on the right, who has been one of Buffalo’s most disruptive players all season, keeping opposing defenses off balance with his speedy pursuit.  It was clear the substitution had an effect.  After a few minutes to adjust, there was a clear difference in Buffalo possession in the midfield.  Murphy would continue to make changes, subbing out Rob Brandell for Bobby Ross in the midfield and later Ebangwese for Matt Ferguson at forward.  With all these changes, FC Buffalo gained more and more offensive possession, eventually culminating in a goal by Larocque at 77’ off a Conner Willings corner kick.  Eventually Chris Walter would add another in the 90th, pursing the ball through several defensive contacts right up the middle to put one in the bottom right corner of the net.

The other story of the game was the physical play on both sides.  The game was very chippy, with frequent late tackles and the a lot of defensive contact on both sides of the ball as defenders tried to reign in speedy forwards including Lansing’s very fast Stephen Owusu and Buffalo’s Brett Larocque.  There were three bookings in the first half and another three in the second including the double yellow and ejection of Owuso in the 73rd minute.  The first was for a foul, with the second and the red card for his verbal reaction to the referee.  Even with all the bookings, there could have been a few more, including a very late tackle by Lansing in the 26th minute, a jersey grab in the 66th, and when Buffalo’s Kendell McFayden gave a Lansing player a shove after the play following a separate foul in the 67th.  The situation wasn’t helped by how easy Owuso went down and some purposely drawn fouls from Ebangwese, including a blatant dive in the 52nd.  It certainly seemed like a difficult game for the referees, but fortunately everyone got out okay (except for perhaps Chris Walter, who will sit a game for his accumulation of bookings).

FC Buffalo goes into their last two games positioned third in the standings, three points out of first and three points out of fourth and fifth (who are tied).  Their next game is tomorrow at Fort Pitt Regiment with the season closer and final home game next Friday at 7pm versus AFC Cleveland.