Lexington can’t take the Fuego
Lexington SC traveled to Fresno State Soccer Stadium to take on Central Valley Fuego FC in the California heat (105°F at kickoff), and they could not take the heat, falling to Fuego 2-1 while having a man advantage since the 35th minute. The loss moves Lexington to 3 wins – 5 draws – 9 losses with still no road wins. Central Valley picked up their 4th win of the season to move to 4-1-11.
Lexington’s losing streak has now been extended to 4 straight matches, while Fuego ended their 5-match losing streak, grabbing their first win since June 3rd and their first win at home since May 20th. Fuego moves up to 11th in the league table with the victory, just 1 point behind Lexington, who remains in 10th. Kentucky bourbon was likely the go-to medicine last night for Lexington fans to ease their pain after the referee blew his final whistle (which oddly no referee whistles could be heard on the broadcast.)
The first half of the match had minimal action, with the training staffs of both teams being very active as multiple players were down for various parts of the half after collisions, with neither Lexington nor Fuego creating any big chances and just 2 shots taken in the entire half – both by Lexington, but do not let those first-half shots numbers fool you because Amal Knight put in a fantastic 1st half for Lexington, making multiple key saves that kept the match scoreless going into the half.
The 1st half also saw the tension between the two teams build when Fuego’s captain, Jose Carrera-Garcia, was sent off with a red card after a high kick collision with Lexington’s Tate Robertson.
The second half is when the bourdon cabinets started opening up in Lexington. Just 3 minutes into the second half, Fuego’s rising young star Maximus Ekk, just 17 years of age, made a blazing-fast run to get past the Lexington defense to beat Knight with a top-shelf rocket for his first professional goal after a perfectly timed chip pass from Alexis Cerritos, his first assist of the season. Less than 10 minutes later, Fuego was on the board again, this time off the head of Jordan Chavez for his first goal of the season after a masterful cross into the box from Adrian Vera, his first assist, in the 57th minute. Ekk’s goal would earn him Man of the Match honors.
That would be the end of the goal-scoring, though. Lexington pilled on the pressure after Diouf’s goal, but North was a brick wall all night long, with Diouf’s goal being his only slip-up.
I do not know if it was the heat, but Lexington seemed to need to be on the same page for most of the match. The attack was sluggish and lacked any chemistry to get consistent pressure on Fuego’s backline. The defense let Fuego’s attack come into the box all night long, and if a couple of shots had not gone a few inches wide, then the scoreboard would have been much more lopsided. To not even escape with points with a man advantage, 56% possession, and a higher expected goal rate (0.88 to Fuego’s 0.66) is just a bitter pill to swallow if your Lexington and its fans (which I am.)
Lexington must solidify its backline and midfield to create any on-the-field chemistry. Coach Stockley runs a 4-4-2, and in the last three matches, the backline has seen 7 different defenders, with Green and Fox being the only ones who have yet to be rotated out. The midfield has seen the same, with 7 different players rotate within the midfield.
In summary, the performances during this losing streak have led me to conclude that this team lacks the chemistry as positional groups to put in a full 90 performance as they had against Chattanooga way back on June 13th, and there needs to be some consistency with the starting eleven to create that chemistry.
Lexington SC (10th in USL1) will take on Union Omaha (7th) for their next match at Toyota Stadium, where they will debut their new “All Black” kits on Saturday, July 22nd. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm EST/6 pm CST.
And as always, make sure to follow Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington SC, and all things soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth.