FC Buffalo were dealt a blow at the tail end of their season-opening loss to Dayton, as Kendell McFayden's broken hand will sideline him indefinitely and leave the Wolves without their first-choice striker heading into Friday's visit to rival Erie (7 p.m., Gannon University).
At least two of FC Buffalo's players ineligible for the team's opener due to a lack of international clearance will be available for the first away clash. Akean Shackleford, a Jamaican striker who introduced himself through a post on the club website, and Niagara University winger Mackenzie Roach should feature in Frank Butcher's plans moving forward.
While McFayden found himself in dangerous spots in the opener, and a flurry of late chances left FC Buffalo fans clinging to hope until the final whistle, the eventual clean sheet proved a frustrating start for the Wolves' brass.
Although it's only Butcher's second game at the helm, the history between FC Buffalo and Erie - and the importance of Friday's match - is not lost on the new gaffer, and he's passed along that message to his players.
"The fans and the players that have been around for a while have the Erie games circled on the schedule every year and the new guys should know the value of that," Butcher explained in an email.
Known for crunching tackles, extra-curricular activity away from the play, a history of red cards and plenty of banter between FC Buffalo's supporters, The Situation Room, and Erie's fans and players, the rivalry has a nasty, unpredictable side that makes every contest a spectacle. Butcher won't want his young team to get too caught up in their emotions, especially if that jeopardizes a favorable result.
"We are placing a high emphasis on every game at this point," Butcher said. "We really feel like we could have gotten a better result last week and know that every point is even more valuable now if we want to make it to the playoffs."
HISTORY OF THE RIVALRY: FC Buffalo took four points from two matches against Erie in 2016, beating the Commodores at home behind Johnny McBeth's game winner, but then getting eliminated from playoff contention after a wild 3-3 draw at Gannon.
Since the two teams began competing in 2010, FC Buffalo went 1-9-1 in their first 11 matches against Erie, but the rivalry has evened out in the last three summers. Since the then-Admirals humbled FC Buffalo in the team's first and only playoff match, in 2o13, the Wolves are 3-3-1 against their adversaries down the 90.
PREVIEWING ERIE: There's virtually no data to collect on Erie so far this year, as owner-head coach John Melody condenses his schedule each season - Friday's game against FC Buffalo will be the Commodores' first of the campaign.
A few names are recognizable on Erie's roster; International Prep graduate Ezana Kahsay, who now plays for the powerhouse University of Akron, will wear No. 7. Shane Wiedt, Kahsay's teammate with Akron, makes the switch from AFC Cleveland.
Veteran midfielder Luca Campos is once again on the roster, while hopes are high for newcomers Malcolm Shaw and Jack Cousin. Reece Daly, Max Aken-Tyers, Jorge Hernandez, Ricardo Silva, Ashley Phillips and Austin Solomon all return from last year's Commodores side that, like FC Buffalo, missed the playoffs.
THE FINAL WORD: Expect the usual contingent of FC Buffalo's boisterous supporters to make the trip to Gannon; there's no team in the National Premier Soccer League that the Situation Room loathes more.
"I love the look in the eyes of the Situation Room and how fired up they get about Erie," Butcher concluded. "It makes me want to do everything I can to go out and get the win for them."