It took five exhibition matches and one regular-season game, but FC Buffalo has discovered a style of play that suits their strengths and rattles opponents. The perk? At least seven matches remain for fans to enjoy this entertaining brand of soccer.
FC Buffalo welcomed rival Erie to All-High Stadium on Friday and then tormented the Commodores for 90 minutes, handing them their first loss of the National Premier Soccer League season with relentless energy, pressure and ball-winning.
The Wolves' victory, a 2-0 final, could have approached FC Buffalo's 5-0 thumping of Syracuse with more clinical finishing. The chances certainly were there.
"[We used] the exact same style of play, exact same tactics, everything about it was the same [as against Syracuse]," said FC Buffalo man of the match Kieran Toland. "The first 10 minutes, we said, 'We don't stop running, we get the ball back, we don't stop pressuring them' - and I think we pretty much did that for 90 minutes almost."
"We want to go, we want to attack with speed, create turnovers," echoed head coach Frank Butcher. "We've been doing a really good job at it. It's hard to stop speed. When we're playing that controlled and that fast, it's going to be really difficult to stop us."
An own goal by Erie's Carl Hinkson in the first half - an accidental knock past keeper Alexander Brems following a blistered cross by Kieran Toland into a dangerous area - and a second-half penalty kick by Toland earned the former St. Bonaventure star man of the match honors.
[As you can tell from the middle video, the spot of the foul that produced game-icing penalty kick for FC Buffalo was certainly controversial.]
After noting how unfamiliar his new forward role was after the Syracuse win, Toland was quick to applaud the effort of the Wolves midfielders' in toppling Erie.
"I think in the first half, the first 30 minutes [Erie] couldn't really handle [our pressure]," the Scot explained. "We dominated second balls; to be fair, their center backs pretty much won almost every first ball, but our midfield, it was all down to them winning the second balls. The second balls really won the game for us today."
The narrow field and 3-5-2 formation played distinctly to FC Buffalo's advantage, as Erie's midfielders felt constant pressure all evening. Wing back Colin O'Keefe was a menace on the right side, terrorizing Commodores captain Ashley Phillips with his quickness and motor.
"That position is best for my attributes - I get to utilize my pace out wide, and there's a lot of room for me to run in," O'Keefe said. "As a team, we're really good at moving the ball from side to side and finding our wide players."
FC Buffalo goalkeeper Bryce Tramuta earned his second-straight clean sheet, with relatively little action aside from an important back-post stop of a George Stannard header in the second half.
FC Buffalo stays at home for its next NPSL clash, at 7 p.m. June 14 against Pittsburgh Hotspurs, an expansion club that looks quite similar to the Fort Pitt Regiment, the now-defunct Pennsylvania foe FC Buffalo has played for several seasons.
Final word: "I think a lot of credit goes to our center backs [Josh Read, Chris Walter and Rob Williamson]. They played incredible, the way they were able to possess the ball and find those channels behind the opposing team's defense, and then Kieran Toland and Nevado Elliott are incredible at hold up play, and then we can get the ball out wide." - Colin O'Keefe
FC Buffalo (2-1): Bryce Tramuta; Rob Williamson, Josh Read, Chris Walter; Luca Zeigler, Carl Kennedy, Austin Stout, Will Warren, Colin O'Keefe; Nevado Elliott, Kieran Toland. Subs used: Matt Lopoyda, Cam Emerson, Kendell McFayden, Filip Johansson, Niklas Breunung.
Erie (3-1-1): Alexander Brems; Ashley Phillips, George Stannard, Andy Bennett, Carl Hinkson; Craig Quinn, Owen Connelly, Jesus Morinigo; Ivo Mendoza, Mathias Krigbaum, Curtis Stollery. Subs used: Chris Ralph, Joe Bell, Evan Beutler, Gabriel Peres, Rhys Wallace.