KW United played their sixth game of the season and picked up their fifth win to extend their winning streak on Wednesday. Aside from their opening game against the Michigan Bucks, KW United have been rock-solid this season. The game was a bit slower than some of the previous games United have played, with less pressure on either end; both teams playing conservatively and focusing on play in the middle of the pitch. The young Blues were playing without Wesley Cain in the match who was being rested after a slight pull on his hamstring. Coach Martin Painter was confident that his team would not have too much difficulty against the traveling Derby City Rovers, so resting Cain in preparation for Sunday’s match against Cincinnati seemed prudent.
A few other notable players not on the roster include Justin Springer, who is on international duty in the Caribbean playing for Saint Kitts; Ken Krolicki, who is training with Columbus Crew but should be back in the next few days; and Johannes Pieles who has returned to Germany and will be off the roster for the rest of the season.
It was clear from the outset of the game that Derby City intended to play defensively, preventing KW from gaining any counter-attack opportunities. Painter, in his post-match comments, explained how during the first half the Rovers “played very compact; [they] slowed the tempo down and we struggled to get solutions”. The sheet was kept clean until the 20th minute when Sameer Fathazada was able to create a scoring opportunity by earning a penalty inside the Derby City box. Janos Loebe was able to capitalize on the opportunity, beating the goalie to make the score 1-0. This goal opened the game up, with KW United pressing more aggressively into the Rovers’ box. Still, United struggled with breaking down Derby City’s defense. In the 30th minute, Loebe had another opportunity but his shot went straight into Braeden Luna’s arms.
It looked as if the Rovers might hold the line going into the 40th minute; they were even able to put a few chances together, although nothing to seriously test Dayne St. Clair. But things suddenly became worse for the visiting team: a deep press by KW United provided a good crossing opportunity for the Blues. Kamal Miller found himself with some space under the ball, and was able to place his header past a mob of defenders to slide past the right post into the net. Score: 2-0.
During the half-time break, Painter made some key changes to break down Derby City defenses. He brought on Jannik Loebe for Mo Aborig, who had been struggling with getting on the end of the play; “my holdup play was good but I think my runs into the box could have been better” Aborig said after the game. He also changed some things tactically, pushing “our fullbacks higher up the pitch, getting our front three a little narrower, a little more interchanging”. This change proved effective as the second half began with an almost immediate press by KW United. In the 52nd minute, Janos Loebe caught a nice ground cross from Liam Callahan and was able to test the Rovers’ keeper. The deflection was picked up by Munir Saleh, who had a beautiful shot on goal that unfortunately went inches high to hit the cross-bar from outside the box.
In the 59th minute Sameer Fathazada, who was a key playmaker throughout the game, demonstrated some beautiful footwork and threaded the defence from the left side. He was able to fake the goalie into going left and slid a ground shot right into the far side of the goal, making the tally 3-0. The rest of the half involved continual pressing by the young Blues, but the score line remained the same to finish the game. Fathazada’s goal and decisive play was enough to earn him the Grand River Union Supporter’s MVP, with Donald Tomlinson taking the Man of the Match.
The team was satisfied with the 3 points, but many of the players who Northern Starting XI spoke to felt that they should have done even better. Munir Saleh explained that while “we had a good game, and the second half we really turned it up; I think we could have got more […] if we played like that the whole game it could have been four, five, or six nothing”. Painter agreed, saying “I thought the first half we were static, we were predictable and those things don’t produce goals. We’re still good enough for the win, but we’ll have to get better”. Yet, as Sameer Fathazada declared, “you could see some tired legs, but the team kept it together; most important thing for us is 3 points and a clean sheet; nothing better than that”.
It is good that the team continues to see ways to build and improve, as they will have to face the Michigan Bucks two games in a row early July, always a difficult challenge. There is a lot of reason for optimism, however. Their season has been flawless aside from their initial loss to the Bucks, who have dropped points to the Dayton Dutch Lions; a team that KW defeated on June 4th. Coaching staff will continue to train the players and look for more out of the team. Painter praised the team for having good balance, and “good internal competition for spots”. He particularly singled out “Mathieu Laurent, the way he’s come and played in the back has been outstanding; Kamal [Miller] has gotten better with every game”. As well, the “core at the back, the stability there has really helped”. Although the PDL season is short with little time to build, KW United continues to improve in the limited time that they have together.
- Mathieu Laurent
- Janos Loebe
- Sameer Fathazada
- Donald Tomlinson
- Charles Novoth (Tahrik Rodriques 63′)
- Mohamed Aborig (Jannik Loebe 45′)
- Jiro Barriga (Djimon Johnson 63′)
- Munir Saleh (Ismael Longo 63′)
- Liam Callahan (Jon Fraser 65′)
- Kamal Miller (Darren Rios 63′)
- Dayne St. Clair (Keeper)