Photo courtesy: Eakin Howard
The Men of Asheville battled hard against The Villages SC but the comeback attempt would ultimately fall short, losing 1-0 at Greenwood Field on July 23rd.
The first major chance came in the 19th minute when Juan Ballas slipped Kieran Richards in on goal from the right flank with a soft chip pass. Richards blasted a shot from a tight angle at the near post but it was saved by the Buffalo keeper.
In the 39th minute, The Villages sent a curling effort on frame from the right side of the box that looked marked for just underneath the bar but Leroy Zeller was able to leap up and punch it over the crossbar and out for a corner kick.
5 minutes later the Blues were awarded a freekick in a dangerous position. Alex Horveno stepped up to take it and sent a bouncing ball towards the net but it was collected by the goalkeeper.
Right after, The Villages went down the pitch and freed up a forward for a close-range header but Zeller was able to fight it off and keep the game tied going into half.
In the 49th minute Zeller would make a phenomenal diving stop to keep the game even. However, on the resulting cornerkick Frederick Ferreira got free and put it away to put The Villages up 1-0.
The Blues came oh so close to equalizing just 6 minutes later when a cornerkick produced a scramble in the box. The ball found its way to Matthias Lavenant on the right side of the box who turned and blasted a shot that stung the near post.
In the 64th minute Quenzi Huerman sent a freekick into the box that was punched out wide. A couple of Blues did a great job of hustling to send it back in with the keeper still out of his net and the ball once again found Lavenant whose header on frame was cleared off the line by a Buffalo defender.
The Villages hopped on a quick counter that resulted in a shot from the central edge of the box but Zeller was able to palm the shot up and snag it to end any Buffalo danger.
In the 75th minute, Alexis Ledoux made a great run and was slipped in behind by a nice chip pass from Isaiah Vignali for a 1-on-1 with the keeper but his attempt was saved.
The Blues would come within inches of finding the equalizer again in the 87th minute when Simon Carlson’s outside of the box shot towards narrowly sailed over the upper right corner.
The Blues kept clawing and scratching to try and find the equalizer but to no avail. First, Vignali went on a nice run and ripped a shot from just inside the box towards the far post but it was just palmed away. Huerman then had a freekick on the edge of the 18 parried away by an outstretched Villages keeper.
Vignali then had a powerful knuckleball shot fought off and only a few moments later Alex Andersson just narrowly missed the bottom left corner after cutting inside as time ran out on the Blues’ magical 2023 season.
It was not the ending that we wanted but it does not take away from all of the success and memories we made along the way with ALL of you.
THANK YOU FANS for all of your support this season. We couldn’t have done it without you and we cannot wait to be back out there with you all in 2024.