A resilient BSC Raiders side made life difficult for favored FC Motown on Sunday afternoon at Nichols, but the Buffalo & District Soccer League representative ultimately fell short, 2-1, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Cup.
After knocking home a cross from Tyler Pinho in the 24th minute, FC Motown's Maximiliano Garcia broke a 1-1 deadlock with a bending right-footed effort - which took a slight deflection - in the 75th minute to doom the Raiders.
"Hats off to him - it was a good strike, and there's little you can do about it," said center back Casey Derkacz, Raiders' man of the match.
Kendell McFayden scored Raiders' lone goal in the 44th minute, alertly capitalizing on a mental lapse between a Motown defender and goalkeeper Ryan Baird. FC Motown's players were furious after dominating the first stanza yet entering halftime level.
FC Buffalo talisman McFayden nearly put the home side in front in the 63rd minute, delaying his run outside the penalty mark to receive a cross from Brandon Loncar, but McFayden's shot trickled wide of the left post. The striker's diving header off Derkacz's quickly-taken free kick was dangerous, but ultimately did not trouble Celtics' goalkeeper Ryan Baird.
BSC's back four of Derkacz, Kyle Rogers, Anthony Johnson and Prince SaySay was the side's strongest unit, staving off several attacks with well-timed blocks and tackles. Goalkeeper Jeremy Figler was confident and aggressive in his 18-yard box, too.
The defense was called upon with regularity in the early going, as Motown was on the front foot in possession and chances. Possession in the first half was roughly 75-25 in favor of the visitors, but narrowed in the second half to more like 60-40.
"With a collection of guys that you have here, we're not used to playing with each other too much," Derkacz explained. "In the first 20-25 minutes, we lacked a little bit of continuity. [Then] we played a little bit better together and with a little bit more composure. I think [Motown] got a little bit tired and we found ourselves with a little more time on the ball.
"At the end of the day, a lot of it was trying to stay disciplined and frustrate a good team that's used to having the ball and having their way with teams," the center back added. "When you're defending for long spells, it's about communication, staying in your channels, passing on runners and not growing frustrated yourselves at a lack of possession."
Raiders' back line to did well to silence one of the Celtics' leading scorers, forward Lucas Terci, and kept winger Michael Olla from getting too close to goal. Often left in one-on-one situations, both Prince SaySay and Anthony Johnson trusted their athleticism and instincts to avoid getting beaten cleanly.
An early substitution in the central midfield helped turn the tide, as Rocky Palmeiro inserted possession-minded Mohamed Musse for Jon Cary.
"I think Moose [Musse] did a good job coming into the game and slowing it down a little bit," Derkacz reflected.
"It's fun playing in competitive games like this; the last couple years in BDSL, this league is really competitive. I look forward to summers now because it's a bunch of good teams playing against each other, and I like playing highly competitive games just like this. To be able to share the field with a couple guys on rival teams, it's fun like that. You embrace it for Buffalo and enjoy it."
To advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Cup, Raiders previously traveled to northern Virginia to take down TFC Gunners, 2-0. Read the report from that match here.
In the wonky world of amateur tournaments, FC Motown traveled with 10 members of its National Premier Soccer League roster, although the squad was officially representing Garden State Soccer, an amateur men's league in New Jersey.
This approach matches that of the Rochester River Dogz, which - by fielding the core of its Rochester Lancers NPSL team - won last year's Amateur Cup to qualify for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this spring. Rochester will travel to Erie May 9 for the Open Cup clash against the NPSL's Commodores.
While completely within the rules, this tactic essentially doubles the chance of qualifying for the Open Cup, as National Premier Soccer League chooses its Open Cup participants based on a metric - for 2018, it was league results from the previous season. A Major League Soccer team has won the Open Cup title every year since 1999, when the A-League's Rochester Rhinos triumphed over the Colorado Rapids.
*Additional note: FC Motown merged with National Premier Soccer League's Clarkstown SC Eagles prior to the 2018 season.
*Lineup for BSC Raiders: Jeremy Figler; Prince SaySay, Casey Derkacz, Kyle Rogers, Anthony Johnson; Alex Osuch, Brandon Loncar, Jon Cary, John Grabowski; Mo Hussein, Kendell McFayden. Subs used: Mohamed Musse, Anthony SaySay, Polo Suazo, Matt Grabowski, Alex Reid.
*Lineup for FC Motown: Ryan Baird; Tyler Pinho, Daniel Cordeiro, Charlie Lizardo, Ryan Whalen; John Philbin, James Greco, Martin Lucaschik; Maximiliano Garcia, Lucas Terci, Mike Olla. Subs used: Paulino Marques, Michael Czyrnek.