Lexington stunned at the buzzer in Fresno
Photo By Lexington SC
The Boys in Green took another punch in the gut Sunday night on the road against Central Valley Fuego FC when the home side equalized in the 93rd minute. The goal marked the 2nd time in 3 matches that Lexington had 3 points snatched away from them due to a stoppage-time equalizer. The 2-2 draw with Fuego moves Lexington to 7-8-12 on the year with 29 points, and they move up to 9th in the league table, while Central Valley remain at the bottom of the table in 12th with a 5-5-16 record with 20 points.
The match overall was a very back-and-forth affair, with Lexington choosing to play a more counter attacking style of play to prevent Fuego’s attack (who has been very good as of late) from being able to hit Lexington quickly and hard. Lexington would control the ball more in the 1st half with 52% possession, but the half was a primarily defensive affair with just 1 total shot on target by either side. That 1 shot, however, would be a goal by Ates Diouf, who netted both of Lexington’s goals. Diouf’s first goal of the night came in the 18th minute off a perfect cross by Tate Robinson (his 8th assist of the year) to give Lexington an early lead.
The goal is one of the few notable events of the first half, outside of Fuego’s almost goal that rattled off the post early in the 4th minute. The 2nd half is where the game got interesting, perfected for fans like me since the 2nd half was played mainly after midnight in the Eastern time zone. Fuego would dominate the ball offensively, controlling 66% of possession and finding their 1st equalizer early on in the 48th minute when Fuego’s leading scorer, Cerritos, would rocket a shot in the upper left corner after it bounced around in the box. However, while Fuego did dominate the ball, Lexington’s midfield and backline did exceptionally well in shutting down multiple opportunities by Central Valley to pull ahead.
The lockdown by the backline allowed Lexington’s counter-pressing effort to shine with a 3 headed monster of Balogun, Brown, and Diouf. The trio would get multiple chances at goal, with North standing firm for Fuego, but eventually, they did slip up when Brown was fouled in the box in the 67th minute, which led to Diouf scoring a PK for his 12th goal of the year, moving him into 3rd place in the USL1 golden boot race.
The following 30 minutes would be a back-and-forth affair, with the only notable moments being substitutions by either side, with Fuego going attack-heavy and Lexington bringing in fresh legs, with Head making his 2nd appearance for the Boys in Green in the 92nd minute. The gut punch would come in the 93rd minute after Knight made an amazing leg save, but the ball would bounce perfectly to Ruelas of Fuego to level the match with merely seconds on the clock to end the season series between the two sides at 1-1-1.
As someone who looks on the positive side of things (which I know some may find annoying), the ending of the match did make it difficult, but I still have some positive notes. Firstly, while it does not look like Lexington controlled the match on paper, I never felt that Fuego was in control. Counter Attacking football relies on a solid defense, which Lexington had for all but 2 moments in this one. Lexington’s defense picked up 12 interceptions, 2 blocked shots, and 22 clearances while only allowing 5 shots on target out of the 12 that Fuego fired. The counterattack with our 3 headed monster up top worked very well; they could not finish a few chances that would have provided Lexington with more insurance.
However, the most critical positive note is that (at least in my opinion) while Lexington did not get the win in this match, they did not lose (no, I am not being ironic here). If this match happened earlier in the year, we would have lost the match, but we have been improving every match. While we are still on the rollercoaster of figuring out our identity as a team, we are putting in more complete performances that are just marked by unlucky moments. Stockley will need to find a way to bring the energy and performance that the boys have had at home to the road next season, but we have seen throughout USL1’s short history that the league is genuinely chaotic – we have just been on the wrong side of the chaos a lot this season.
Lexington SC will have the chance to continue their slow climb up the table at home against the Independence of Charlotte (12-7-8, 4th in the table with 43 points) on Sunday, September 17th at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST. Check back later this week for our match preview, and stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington SC, and everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth.