Can Lexington get revenge on Fuego at home?
Lexington SC (5-6-10, 21 points) ride back home after splitting a 2-match road trip this past week, losing 2-0 to Omaha, and coming back in a thriller against NoCo that saw the team’s first-ever hat trick (a perfect one) by Ates Diouf. The Boys in Green will be looking to get revenge against Central Valley Fuego (5-2-13. 17 points), who managed to beat Coach Sam Stockley’s side back in Fresno on July 15th, 2-1, while down a man for the majority of the match. The match will also be “Back To School Night” at Toyota Stadium, with activities, giveaways, food, & drinks being available throughout the stadium from 5:30 pm until halftime. The match will kick off at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST.
For Fuego, they come into this match with the same record in their last 5 matches as Lexington (2 wins – 1 draw – 2 losses), but the last 3 matches have yet to go their way of late. They lost at home against One Knox 1-0 after giving up a penalty in the 92nd minute, drew against the Red Wolves at home by blowing a 1-0 lead in the 91st minute, and then dropped their midweek matchup against Tormenta 2-1, getting their lone goal in that game from a penalty in the 83rd minute. Fuego’s goalkeeper Mitchell North picked up a straight red card against Tormenta for handling the ball with his hands outside the box, so that he will be unavailable for Saturday’s match. Lexington fans should remember North well, as he was vital in preventing the comeback efforts by the Boys in Green in Fresno, stopping nearly every possible attack that Lexington managed to create all night. However, Fuego should be noticed due to their recent form or the red card to North. Fuego is still a team that beat Lexington with only 10 men, has scored 6 times within their last 5 matches, and has the 17-year-old phenom Maximus Ekk, so do not just expect this match to be an automatic 3 points for Lexington.
On the other hand, Lexington is looking like a completely different team from the first time these two sides faced; you could even argue the first Fuego match was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” that caused Coach Stockley to move to his new 3-5-2 formation that plays to the versatility of his squad more than the 4-4-2. The new formation has led Lexington to a 2-1-1 record over 4 matches since its debut against Omaha and helped Lexington get the road win monkey off their back this past Saturday against NoCo. However, Lexington put themselves into that 3-1 deficit they managed to climb out of. The cards are in Lexington’s favor going into this match against Fuego, especially since the Boys in Green have only ever lost 2 matches at home all season, splitting the other 8 between 4 wins and 4 draws. Lexington’s home form, combined with the fact that they have scored in 18 out of 21 games and facing Fuego’s 2nd choice at the keeper, could lead to another potential historic night in the All-Black kits – which the selection of them wearing the kit was confirmed by the club through Twitter Thursday night. Lexington will need to capture all 3 points in this game to continue their climb up the table and prove to many others around the league just how talented the team is.
Lexington has the potential to dominate this matchup and continue their push to sneak into the playoffs by the season’s end, but they have a tough road ahead of them, one I fully believe they can navigate. Even if they do not sneak into the playoffs, I feel that Lexington has the potential to end the season on high with a good stretch of games.
Players to Watch
Central Valley Fuego FC
Maximus Ekk – as I mentioned above, Ekk is just 17 and yet has come into a professional league and has scored 2 goals across 6 matches. Overall, he has not been otherworldly, but for those who remember the last time Lex and Fuego faced off, he has the potential to change the game with his speed and finishing ability. Ekk will likely be hungry for goal #3 against a side he knows he can score against.
Tate Robertson – I know the easy choice would have been to go with Ates Diouf, but I feel the unsung hero of the Lexington attack has been Tate “Chef Robo” Robertson. On Saturday, Robertson was crucial in Lexington’s comeback efforts, setting up Diouf’s 2nd goal and scoring the equalizer against NoCo. He is tied for 3rd in the league with 6 assistants, just 2 out of the top spot. Look for Robertson to continue to cook up perfect passes against Fuego and pick up 2 assists to tie him with league leader Rodgers of NoCo.
Lexington SC 2 – 0 Central Valley Fuego FC