KW United was eager to put a difficult road trip behind them as they entered University Stadium on Wednesday to face the West Virginia Chaos. The road trip had started with a win against Derby City, extending the winning streak to seven. Unfortunately for the team, the streak would come to an abrupt halt as the Blues fell to Cincinnati and tied to Dayton; picking up four out of the nine available points. Ken Krolicki, the Man of the Match and Grand River Union MVP, explained that “playing three games in five days, we got tired a little bit towards the end”, but after the 4 days at home-the team was rested and fresh. As the young Blues will be facing the incredibly talented Michigan Bucks this weekend, it was important that they found their form again; and quickly.
KW United set the pace early in the game, pressing hard and adapting to Virginia’s counters well. There was a dangerous moment when a counter led to a scoring opportunity for the Chaos in the 18th minute, but Charlie Novoth, who played his first full 90 in the game, was able to cut off the cross and clear the ball. Continual pressure by KW finally led to a goal in the 22nd minute, when Munir Saleh found himself on the end of a perfect back-pass from Jannick Loebe who had made a deep run down the left side. Saleh was able to pull of a stunning turn, tricking the Chaos defenders and providing himself a clear line of sight on goal. His shot glided into the right side of the net, far beyond the reach of Chaos keeper Kieran Harrison.
Saleh continued his frenzied pace, completely controlling and directing the middle of play and making box-to-box runs. Charlie Novoth was playing a more defensive role in the game, so Saleh was free to roam more aggressively. After the game, Saleh was exuberant, saying he “had the freedom to go up and down, so I enjoyed it a lot”. This freedom led to a great scoring chance, when Saleh provided a fantastic long ball that gave Darren Rios some space to run. Rios performed his role flawlessly, carrying the ball deep down the right side and servicing Ken Krolicki with a ground-cross. Krolicki timed his run perfectly, and was able to add to the KW lead.
The best chance of the half for Virginia was a breakaway that was quickly ended by Scott Levine’s decisive action-coming out to the edge of his box to collect the ball that had gotten ahead of the Virginia attack. For the most part, Scott Levine was untested in his first game playing in front of home fans after Dayne St. Clair’s departure. He will certainly not have the same luxury on Sunday’s game.
Slightly into stoppage time, Krolicki was able to pick up the brace by getting on the end of a pass from Ismael Longo. This, paired with continual pressure and some great intelligent play, earned Krolicki the MVP. The young player has been continually improving this season, and has become an important asset in the KW attack. He will definitely be a player to watch in the future, as his intelligence on and off the ball may lead to a bright future in the beautiful game.
After the third goal, Coach Martin Painter felt confident enough that he could provide some playing time to his depth, as well as rest some of his regular starters in preparation for Sunday’s game; “once we got the third goal, we were up three nil and in control of the game. We had some guys who were working hard and wanted to get some minutes, and we also know we have a game on Sunday”. From the players Painter brought on, Tomasz Skublak seemed particularly keen on making an impact. After a few good chances, he was able to get on the end of a quick pass from Rios, netting his first goal this season while allowing Rios his second assist in the 58th minute. Wesley Cain was also looking to make his presence known after returning from an injury that took him off the roster for much longer than expected. “It felt good to be out there finally again” Cain said after the game; “get my legs in, my bearings in”. Martin Painter was happy with the progress that Cain has made, saying “it was great to see him back”, and praising Cain for causing “problems as he usually does”. Fans can expect to see more minutes from Cain in the final three games of the season.
The game was clean and fast, with the only card being a yellow issued to Ismael Longo in the 41st minute for a tug on a jersey, preventing a clean break by Virginia. It was, as Cain stated in his post-match comments, a “perfect game to have right before the Bucks; confidence boosting and getting us firing on all cylinders”. The team will now be fully concentrating on preparing for the game this Sunday; their most difficult challenge of the season in what is likely their biggest and most important game. The players remain optimistic about their chances, however. Charles Novoth proclaimed that the team has “progressed and as you can see”, KW is “back to our form”.
Painter believes that if the team can “execute and do as well as we can, hopefully we can get those three points”. He is cautiously hopeful, but recognizes the challenge the Bucks present; “Michigan is a very good team; they will be organized, athletic, strong, and dangerous going forward. We’re going tom have to have our best game of the year”.
- Tahrik Rodriques (Kamal Miller 52′)
- Djimon Johnson (Munir Saleh 53′)
- Tomasz Skublak (Jannick Loebe 55′)
- Wesley Cain (Ken Krolicki 63′)
- Adam Polakiewicz (Liam Callahan 63′)
- Jon Fraser (Darren Rios 67′)