The Thriller in Windsor
Lexington Sporting Club played their first-ever match in the club’s history on the road against rival One Knoxville on Saturday, Match 18th. The Boys in Green would lose that contest 2-1 and would go on a 10-match run on the road that saw them go 0-2-8 (0-2-9 if you count the LouCity match in the Open Cup), getting only 2 points across those 10 (11) matches thanks to 2 draws back in the first half of June. Last night, in what could arguably be called the match of the year for USL League One, Coach Stockley and his boys finally slayed the biggest demon they had faced all season – getting 3 points on the road. And the demon has been slain against the best team in the league on their home turf, where they were unbeaten all season. No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Lexington SC went on the road to North Colorado and got the comeback 2nd half 4-3 win; albeit very anxiety-inducing (I think I lost 5 years off my life) fashion, but a win is a win.
The win moves Lexington 10th in the table as they moved to 5-6-10 (21 points, -8 GD), and NoCo drops to 2nd in the table with a record of 10-5-4 (35 points, +12 GD); NoCo also extends their losing streak to 3 straight matches and drops their first match at home this season.
The match started perfectly for Lexington, with NoCo killer Ates Diof scoring the fastest goal in club history from an intercepted pass and fantastic run, juking a defender to bury a shot in the bottom left corner from just outside the box in just the 4th minute. We did see another highlight from Kaelon the Flying Fox when he made a sliding goal-line clearance in the 25th minute to keep Lexington’s slim 1-0 lead.
Delays have not been all too kind to Lexington fans. Before the NoCo match, Lexington had 2 other games enter lightning delays, both back at home at Toyota Stadium. They entered into a lightning delay up 1-0 against Charlotte at home on May 13th and returned to have Fox receive a questionable red card in the 94th minute (that the league later overturned) that led to an Independence PK; thankful Amal Knight saved it. However, Lexington was not so fortunate in the 2nd game against Tormenta, which went into a 90-minute delay 3 minutes in, and that is all I will say about that match (they lost 5-1). And it seemed to be more of the same when they came back from delay last night when, who else, Trevor Amann scored a, no surprise, header off a cross from Marky Hernadez (his 2nd assist on the year) in the 37th minute, not even 2 minutes after the restart. Amann’s brace would end his 3-match drought and extend his league-leading total to 16 goals on the year. The half would end quietly with no other notable events, with NoCo up 2-1.
Now the 2nd half? Hold on because it was a WILD ride. Just a minute into the 2nd half, Stefan Lukic for NoCo collected a ball misplayed by the Lexington defense and tapped it over for the 2nd assist on the year to Billy King, who slotted past Knight for King’s 8th of the campaign. At this point, it was nearly 11 pm EST. I almost turned off the game to go to bed since I would be up at 5 am (hindsight is funny). Still, my gut told me that Lexington had some magic in them left, and my gut did not disappoint.
Lexington began their comeback in the 65th minute when Diouf scored a diving header off a perfectly placed free kick from Tate Robertson, his 6th assist on the year, to bring Lexington within 1. The following sequence was where things got crazy. So, in the 72nd minute, Diouf received a pass into the final 3rd from Don Smart just outside the box on the left. Diouf then cuts in and launches a shot from about 22 yards out that hits a NoCo defender, who is just outside the box, in the hand, and then deflects into the net for the goal, or so we thought. The ref blew the whistle for the handball before the ball entered the net, so there was no goal-free kick from where Diouf shot the ball. Robertson takes the kick and launches a beauty towards the upper right corner that hits the bar, goes down, and bounces high into the air, followed by a scramble and clearance by the NoCo defense – except that when the ball crosses the goal line after it ricochets down off the bar. 2nd goal of the year for Robetson, and we got a tie game in the 74th minute after Lexington was down 3-1 just a minute into the half.
NoCo was not about to make a comeback easy for Lexington, as they had two great chances to take the lead back off shots by Amann in the 84th and 85th minute, only to be denied by Knight to keep the game tied into stoppage time.
In the 95th minute, Opara collected a high pass into the midfield circle but stumbled on his movement to play the ball, which led to Charlie Machell, who came in the 78th minute for Pierre Mané, to collect the ball and thread the needle on a perfectly placed pass to Diouf making the run. Diouf buried it into the net for his 9th goal of the year (5 have been against NoCo). The goal almost marks the first hat trick in Lexington Sporting Club history and redemption for his would-be game-winning hat trick goal from back in May when NoCo came to Toyota Stadium. This goal likely sent many Lexington fans into a freezy (I jumped for joy so high I hit my ceiling fan in my living room) as the Boys in Green finally pulled 3 points out on the road.
Before I bring Lexington fans (and myself) back to reality, I wanted to note some facts from this game. The match is the highest scoring in club history with 7 goals, breaking the previous mark of 6 set in the beat down by Tormenta. The 4 goals scored are the most ever for Lexington in a single game, 1 more than the 3 they scored against Omaha. Lastly, Diouf and Roberstons’ performances bring Diouf to #4 in the golden boot race, and Robertson tied for 3rd in the league in assists.
Now, for the reality check. Lexington played an excellent first 20 minutes, then finished strong with an outstanding performance in the final 30 minutes. However, the time in between got Lexington into the 2 goal hole they dug themselves out of, primarily due to multiple factors. The first is that NoCo is the best attacking team in the league, and by statistics, Lexington is one of the worst teams defensively; so the 3 unanswered goals the NoCo put up came as no surprise to me because I believe the only way to beat NoCo is to keep up with them when they are hot, not shut them down. Additionally, I have some concerns over the health of Knight, particularly his right ankle, which we have seen him have issues with in recent matches. Knight seemed off in the first half, with his feet more planted in the ground rather than diving at all balls that came his way, and this could be due to his ankle not being 100%. If this is the case, Coach Stockley should bring Causey against Fuego and allow Knight’s ankle to heal fully.
Player of the Match (Fotmob Rating)
Ates Diouf (9.6) – No brainer here. 3 goals + put in work on defense
Lexington SC will face Central Valley Feugo in their next match on Saturday, August 12th, at home in Toyota Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 pm EST/6 pm CST. Check back later this week for our preview of that match, and as always, follow Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington SC, and all things soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth!
Authors Note – Some things are bigger than the game, and I wanted to give a shoutout to NoCo’s Irvin Parra, who returned to the pitch in th3 83rd minute for the first time in over 4 months after a months long battle with Testicular cancer that saw him endure 3 rounds of chemotherapy. It had been 133 days since Parra’s last appearance, and his entry marked his 133rd appearance across USL1 and USLC.