Neck-and-Neck: Steel City FC pulls past Akron City FC, 2-1, late in the game

ACFC moves to 1-2 on the year with three league points

Writer: Sideline and Beat Reporter, Cade Cracas

Akron, Ohio- Heartbreak for the home team.

On Friday, May 31, Akron City FC (ACFC) paid host to Steel City (SCFC) in a high-intensity battle that saw SCFC pull away late, 2-1. The two teams went toe-to-toe for 90 minutes with both exchanging prominent attacks and immense offensive pressure.

“I don’t think there was necessarily many nerves, but they [the players] were playing in a rhythm that was just too slow,” ACFC Head Coach Andy Hoggarth said. “We had a little more about us in the second half and got the equalizer.

“But we conceded two back post goals on runners which is frustrating… we have got to move on.”

Coming off a 6-0 win over Michigan Rangers FC last weekend, Saturday, May 25, ACFC was attempting to continue grasping at their established momentum.

“I’m expecting us to continue developing our cohesion as a group,” said Hoggarth prior to Friday night’s game. “The game will be a tough game and we know the high quality of Steel City FC.

“I expect us to be prepared, organized and very competitive.”

The game certainly was competitive between both sides, as the tempo was full throttle from the opening whistle.

In the opening go-abouts, the ACFC defense was tested heavily, with pressure mounting on all sides. Veteran center-back Dan O’Callaghan had to step up multiple times to ensure that goalkeeper Patrick McGlaughlin wasn’t tested early.

The offensive prowl of SCFC forwards Nick Graeca and Nate Ward continued to press the ball within the final third.

With the incredible movement being never-ending, Ryan Mertz buried the ball into the back netting in the 15th minute. He would receive a ball across the face of the goal from his teammate, before blasting it past McGlaughlin.

The remainder of the first half was highlighted by ACFC attempting to bring things back within reach as they trailed, 1-0.

At the halftime break, Hoggarth praised his team’s mentality and the willingness to push the pace of play, with hopes of a tying goal in the second half.

“I think we have to raise the intensity. We were a little bit slow and going through the motions,” said Hoggarth. “I think we have to look to isolate their weaknesses.

“We need to create 1 v 1’s but we have been too slow to find those weaknesses yet.”

To begin the second half, he made some slight adjustments as the offensive pressure for ACFC moved into the final third multiple times.

After 10 minutes of attacking the backline of SCFC and goalkeeper Garry Watson, Akron would find the break they were looking for.

Standout forward Sam Sarver would receive the ball over the top from counterpart Ryan Wingsford on a break past the opposing defensive line. With a nice touch to the side and a bit of speed, Sarver would play the ball back post where it caromed into the back of the net. 

His goal would bring the game level to one in the 55th minute.

“I think we saw what Sam brings to us… but I don’t know if we used him enough,” said Hoggarth.

In response, SCFC would have a big opportunity to take the lead back in the 70th minute. When receiving the ball, forward Nathan Prex went to turn and take a shot on goal but lost his footing for an easy scoop for McGlaughlin.

ACFC would take the ball back the other direction and Dobrijevic rocketed a ball at Watson, who made a crucial save for the away side.

Unfortunately for the home team, with roughly 10 minutes to go, SCFC would find the go-ahead goal that would be the outing’s final score. Prex, who missed out on a chance minutes earlier, found vengeance with a goal into the top left corner.

The ball would be deflected by McGlaughlin, but based on the angle he was at, the attempted save just pressed the ball back into the net.

With the scoreline now 2-1 in favor of SCFC, they sat back and defended well for the final 10 minutes of the game.

The loss drops ACFC to 1-2 on the season with a goal differential of 7-3. For SCFC, this would be their third win on the year with a record of 3-1-0, staying undefeated.

“I think we just have to come with the urgency and intensity we had against Michigan,” Hoggarth said. “I don’t know what the difference was today but we didn’t have that bite with us.”

ACFC will remain at home through Sunday as they will pay host to Northern Indiana FC for action in the USASA Men’s National Amateur Cup. 

“Sunday’s game will be nice to get out of the league,” Hoggarth said. "It is another competition now and we have the chance to put things right.

“It is nice to come out Sunday and try to put the loss behind us.”

Sunday’s outing is set for a 4:30 p.m. start from Green Street Stadium. Tickets can be purchased at the link provided: