Las Vegas, NV- With the opportunity to clinch the Copa Frontera, Albuquerque Sol FC played their second road game in three days against a hungry Las Vegas Mobsters at Valley High School on Saturday night.
With a game time temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, the hardened turf field provided tough playing conditions for the Sol, causing the game to get off to a slow start. When the Las Vegas Mobsters finally managed to test the opposition goalkeeper Lucas Champenois was called in to action first with an outstanding stop from the dangerous Mobsters Right Wing Carlos Lara, beating the ball away to keep the score tied at 0-0.
Sol FC worked their way in to the game creating numerous chances flashing across the 18 yard box without being able to capitalize on their attacking prowess whilst at the other end of the field, the Mobsters continued to dominate on set plays and physical presence, but Champenois’ continued his fantastic season-long performance in goal, blocking everything that came his way.
Sol FC remained solid though and moved to the break at 0-0. Speaking about the field conditions and first-half, Sol Coach Matt Gordon said, “We saw the field last night and knew it was small and in bad shape which probably suited Mobsters more than it did us. They’re a big physical group who play to their strengths, they want to bang balls at you and put the ball and a lot of bodies in dangerous areas.”
Changes soon came in the second half with Manuel Campos coming in and Matt Ball soon followed who made his first appearance since returning from a week in England. The ever impressive but tiring Adrian Mora was replaced by Andy Wilkinson, with the Englishman adding a physical presence along with a dangerous left foot which he showed seconds after entering the game with a low, front post rocket which pressured the Mobsters keeper who was able to make the save. It was the Mobsters turn to apply the pressure next with a pulled back cross, following the back and forth momentum shift that had been prevalent throughout the game.
Sol FC’s strength and depth once again came through though and it was a Manuel Campos free kick delivery which was finished by Matt Ball at close range to give Sol FC the 1-0 lead and eventual win despite challenging conditions both on and off the field. When asked about the changes made in the second-half, Coach Gordon commented, “We knew the game would open up in the second half and Manuel and Matt are hard to stop when that happens because of the type of players who they are.”
The Sol were able to hold on to the 1-0 lead, and eventually closed out the game. The victory not only keeps Sol FC at the top of the Mountain Division with 19 points from 8 games but also earned the first piece of hardware in club history by taking home the Copa Frontera trophy, a cup played between Sol FC, Las Vegas Mobsters and FC Tucson.
With the win, Coach Gordon remained cautiously optimistic, “The challenge for us is to stay grounded, and it’s easy to think you’re better than what you are when you’re winning, we do a lot of things well but must keep improving. We’ve got another big game against Laredo on Thursday, no time to rest on our success. Still a long way to go this season, we must keep pushing the issue.”
The Sol return to Albuquerque for their next home game against the Laredo Heat on Thursday, June 18th, at 6:30 PM.