For a Tehel Cup quarterfinal match between two of the top sides in the Buffalo & District Soccer League's premier division, the result was surprisingly lopsided.
BSC Raiders' Kendell McFayden scored once and added two assists in his team's 3-0 blanking of the Amherst Sharpshooters on Thursday at Sparky Adams Field in Kenmore. John Grabowski and Chris Walter were on the receiving end of McFayden's passes, while Jeremy Figler collected a rather uneventful clean sheet in net.
"The only problem with us is trying to get everyone to show up for a game," McFayden explained, "but once we have everyone here, there's no reason we shouldn't win."
With the victory, manager Rocky Palmeiro and his Raiders advance to play the winner of another quarterfinal, first division's Los Chupacabras against championship division side BSC International, to be played at 8:45 p.m. July 16 at Kenney Field. On the other side of the bracket, East Aurora FC and BUSS, two premier teams, will square off in the semis. Yemen Elite was the 2017 Tehel Cup winner.
Premier division winners for three of the last four seasons, Raiders poured on offensive pressure from the start, forcing strong efforts from Sharpshooters' defender Graham Harris and goalkeeper James Quinn, among others, to keep the match scoreless late into the first half.
But drifting to the right side, close to midfield, to receive a pass, McFayden took matters into his own hands.
"I felt isolated and saw [teammate Chris] Billoni make a run that pulled a defender out, which left me one vs. one with a defender," the goal scorer explained. "I saw the defender turn one way and I went the other, then saw the keeper was off his line, and I just tried to put it away early."
[Look back at BN Soccer's live tweets from the match]
The jutting 40-yard run had a little bit of everything: a forward checking back to touch the ball, assertiveness in taking defenders on, sharp cuts and changes of speed, an intelligent run off the ball and a clinical curling finish to the near post.
While McFayden has proven himself as a goal scorer, he's not typically known as a distributor. That facet of his game stood out rather unexpectedly in the second 45 minutes.
Not long after Kyle Rogers clanged the right post and McFayden saw a crackling volley denied by an acrobatic Quinn, the FC Buffalo veteran forward collected the ball with his back to goal after another checking run, then peeked over his shoulder to see Grabowski dart out of midfield in behind the Amherst defense.
Like McFayden, Grabowski took his chance early, popping the ball over Quinn's head for a more comfortable lead in the 74th minute.
"The last two weeks, even at practice for FC Buffalo, I've been yelling at [McFayden] because he doesn't pass me the ball," said Grabowski, an assistant coach and part-time player for the Wolves.
"Then he finally passed me the ball, and I said, 'That's what happens when you pass me the ball.' That's the same pass I'm always playing him, that little through ball. I thought, 'I'd better finish it since I've been giving him such a hard time.'"
Billoni, one of the senior members of the squad, played a pivotal role in the third tally, which arrived in the 85th minute. Hustling to beat Bjarki Benediktsson to the ball, then a deft turn to his left freed the St. Joe's alum to cut a low cross toward the top of the box. McFayden alertly knocked the ball first-time to his right, where Chris Walter was stationed for a simple finish.
Sharpshooters found it particularly tough to push their midfield forward and sustain possession; Raiders' on-ball pressure defensively and quick passes offensively wore down the 2016 premier division champs. Casey Derkacz, Kyle Rogers, Anthony Johnson and Alex Osuch were organized and, as usual, brought some tooth to their tackles.
"There were no real mistakes, no moments of letdown, and it kind of felt like we had it under control the whole time," Grabowski summed after the match. "[Sharpshooters] are a great team, but we were comfortable and knocking it, and when they had moments we recovered, then we finished our chances."
FINAL WORD: "It's the first year where it's all of our friends - as you can see, we're having fun. On the field, it's business but we're still having fun. We all get along great off the field, too. We just click - we know what everyone is trying to do, our back line is solid, we don't give up much and there's the connection that we have." - John Grabowski, BSC Raiders midfielder.
BSC Raiders: Jeremy Figler; Anthony Johnson, Kyle Rogers, Casey Derkacz, Alex Osuch; Matt Grabowski, John Grabowski, Ryan Walter, Chris Walter; Kendell McFayden, Colin O'Keefe. Subs: Bobby Ross, Chris Billoni, Justin Wainwright, Evan Walsh, Dave Pihlblad, Justin Figler.
Amherst Sharpshooters: James Quinn; Matt Campana, Graham Harris, Ricky Martinez, Jon Cary; Cody Rouse, Bjarki Benediktsson; Melvin Blair, Brendan Lawler, Ishaan Kashyap; Zack Schmidt. Subs: Drew Braun, Brandon Loncar, Ben Woolingham, Justin Hofschneider, Zack Wood, R.J. Grampp.
A show of peace between @OfficialBDSL players from both teams and tonight's referees: League referee Michael Crane was attacked by a player and suffered a concussion on Sunday; more info still needed in regard to the charges filed against Jeffrey Sekyere. pic.twitter.com/LKcX1Qth04
— Buffalo News Soccer (@BN_Soccer) July 13, 2018