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FC Buffalo-Erie rivalry tilt earns NPSL Match of the Week recognition

The National Premier Soccer League season comes at you fast.

After a discouraging 2-0 loss in its home opener, FC Buffalo is back on the pitch at 2 p.m. May 26 at Edinboro University against rivals Erie  (1-0) in what's been dubbed the NPSL Game of the Week.

Details for the live stream will be announced Saturday morning, while BN Soccer will provide in-person updates and post-game reaction, too.

The challenge facing the Wolves is two-fold: Aim for a result against the organized, physical Commodores, then turn around 27 hours later for a home match against Syracuse FC, at 7 p.m. May 26 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium ($8 at the gate).

Erie has already thrown the first punch, albeit on Twitter, where @Erie_Commodores shared the side's record against FC Buffalo (14 wins, five losses and three draws), then compared playoff appearances (Erie's five to Buffalo's one) and playoff wins (eight to Buffalo's zero).

While the all-time results certainly swing in the home side's favor, FC Buffalo can happily counter with its five-match unbeaten streak - three wins and two draws - in the Erie County Derby. The Wolves haven't lost to the Commodores since June 7, 2015.

"[This game] matters because it's a derby, there should be a really big crowd, and our people seem like they'll be traveling pretty deep, too," said FC Buffalo owner Nick Mendola. "We legitimately have something akin to a venomous respect for Erie. The verb seething seems appropriate."

The Commodores, under head coach Dale White for the first season, have a jump-start on the campaign thanks to an impressive U.S. Open Cup run, beating the Rochester Lancers in penalties before falling to a professional side, the United Soccer League's Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 2-1, on May 16.

Erie's lone league result, a 1-0 blanking of Syracuse FC, saw the victors concede only one quality opportunity.

Watch how FC Buffalo head coach Frank Butcher handles his seven substitutes Saturday, as the gaffer must fight for a result without depleting the resources needed to compete Sunday night at home. The back-to-back league matches are the team's first since 2012; the Wolves had a whopping four back-to-backs in 2011.

"I am hopeful that I am able to use subs earlier," Butcher remarked in an email. "I am also thinking that the 18 guys I use on Saturday may be different from the guys I use on Sunday. That may include changing some of the starters as well.

"That being said the most important thing is to get the win on Saturday and then plans may change."

If anything, the Wolves are eager to put the dismal opening result behind them. Striker Akean Shackleford's tweet, below, shows the club has taken its stumbles at home seriously.

One debut is exciting for Butcher's squad: Kendell McFayden returns from a one-game suspension served in the loss to Fort Pitt. The former Rochester Rhinos striker is expected to be available for selection on Saturday. The debuts of Keane McIvor and Jens Roessler are uncertain, however, as FC Buffalo awaits their International Transfer Certificates (ITC).

[Related: For more on the club, look back at the FC Buffalo season preview]

The designation of league Match of the Week is valuable considering the NPSL boasts 98 teams this season, and a spotlight on the heated rivalry means extra attention is given to both sides in the form of a write-up on the league website and social media updates.

"It looks like Erie had a lot of turnover too, and so this [attention] will really reinforce for new players that the Erie County Derby interest extends beyond what we’ve been preaching in training," Mendola explained.

A win - or even a result - against the Commodores would inject life into a team that badly needs reasons for optimism. A loss on Saturday, and FC Buffalo faces a must-win at home to avoid an 0-3 start.


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