On a team laden with proficient attackers - Kyle Clifford, Hunter Walsh and Hunter Sherman, to name a few - Buffalo United Soccer Stars (BUSS) turned to an unheralded newcomer for its decisive overtime goal in the 4-2 Tehel Cup semifinal win over East Aurora FC on Thursday at D'Youville College.
In the first minute of overtime, BUSS midfielder Mo Musse caught the East Aurora defense dozing with a through ball up the middle to meet the run of Mustaf Muktar, who then knifed to his left around goalkeeper Chris Norcia and passed into the gaping goal, putting BUSS ahead 3-2, a lead they'd never relinquish.
Walsh bookended his team's goals, scoring the game's first tally in the 51st minute before sealing the win in the 100th minute; there's no golden-goal victory in Tehel Cup tournament play. Mustapha Ibrahim, a late-season transfer from Blizzard SC, registered the other goal. Joe Vucic was a one-man wrecking ball for the losing side, potting two goals and coming close on several other occasions.
Managed by Polo Suazo and Bobby Calvaneso, BUSS returns to the Tehel Cup championship game with unfinished business; the orange-clad side fell in penalty kicks to Yemen Elite in last year's final.
[Look back from tweets from the action, via BN Soccer]
Muktar, a native of Kenya who played at nearby International Prep at Grover Cleveland and club for Westside International Soccer, was added to BUSS' roster on June 14, more than a month into the Buffalo & District Soccer League season.
With the premier division playoff side short several players for the midweek tournament match, Muktar seized his opportunity to shine.
*1-0, BUSS, 51': After a flurry of chances for East Aurora in the game's first 15 minutes, BUSS gradually leveled out play as the first half wore on, before taking the lead early in the second half. Calvaneso lobbed a long ball from the left side over the East Aurora defense to Hunter Walsh's run, and the Canisius College striker took the ball down neatly before snapping a shot inside the opposite post.
*1-1, tie, 60': After winning a free kick on the edge of the BUSS box, East Aurora's Joe Vucic sniped a low shot by the wall, past goalkeeper Tim Clark and into the side-netting.
*2-1, East Aurora, 70': East Aurora High School stalwart Josh Bean received the ball deep on the left wing before curling a cross into the 18-yard box as we was knocked over. A lack of communication among BUSS defenders and Clark allowed an unhindered Vucic to meet the ball first and roof his first-time shot into the goal.
*2-2, tie, 72': BUSS wouldn't stay down for long, as Suazo cracked a long set piece from near midfield into the East Aurora box. The ball bounced around before falling to Mustapha Ibrahim, who absolutely crushed a half-volley into the right corner to knot the score.
*Red cards, 81': A melee away from the ball resulted in the sending off of BUSS forward Hunter Sherman and East Aurora midfielder Austin Meier. If you scour Twitter closely, you'll be able to figure out what happened.
*3-2, BUSS, 91': Muktar's overtime goal deflated East Aurora, especially due to the fashion in which it came. Here's how the goal transpired, according to the scorer himself.
"I'm kind of quick on the wing, so I just told [Musse] to play me a through pass, I'm going to take off," he said. "First I was going to shoot, but I saw [the EA goalkeeper] hesitate. I'm quick with my feet, so I just passed the ball to the other side and took the shot."
*4-2, BUSS, 100': After East Aurora disrupted Kyle Clifford's rumble forward on a partial breakaway, a hustling Musse recovered the loose ball on the right side and swung a cross to the back post. Walsh brought it down, froze a blue defender and slashed his shot by Norcia for the final tally.
Although it wasn't the sharpest match for BUSS, which faces a league playoff game against No. 6 seed Wolfpack on Sunday, the favorites did enough to win.
"We kind of calmed down and started talking to each other and reading each other much better [as the game wore on]," Muktar explained. "Before, after they scored, we got frustrated. Our coaches told us to calm down and play as a team, and that's how we managed to win."
East Aurora, which recently revealed team-wide disgust at having to play on Sundays, has already been relegated to the championship division after a 1-10 campaign riddled by injuries and attendance issues.
FINAL WORD: Suazo on the win and what it means - "It feels great. We get the chance to redeem ourselves for this final."
BUSS: Tim Clark; Bobby Calvaneso, Polo Suazo, Josh Hammer, Michael Malcolm; Mustaf Muktar, Wes Rider, Nate Nuwer, Christian Jungong; Hunter Sherman, Hunter Walsh. Subs used: Kyle Clifford, Mustapha Ibrahim, Mo Musse.
EA FC: Chris Norcia; Barry Hunt, Josh Meier, Jake Reed, Vinny Chimento; Josh Bean, Jack Bean, Kyle Kleckner, Austin Meier, Eli Richards; Joe Vucic. Subs used: Aaron Kosowski, Sal Curella.
The other Tehel Cup semifinal, between BSC Raiders and BSC International, is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. July 29 at D'Youville College's Dobson Field. The final will take place at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Kenmore East's Sparky Adams Field. The winner of that match will represent the BDSL in the Werner Fricker Open Cup in spring 2019.
*Previous 2018 Tehel Cup coverage:
- BSC Raiders storm past Sharpshooters
- Southtowns FPFC overwhelms Pendleton
- Counter-attacking Rangers knock out Roos
- Richards buoys Wolfpack in angsty defeat of Beast City