Rafters fall 2-1 in first conference loss to Dallas City FC
The Shreveport Rafters took the I-20 trip to play conference opponent Dallas City FC Saturday evening. The Rafters are full speed ahead wrapping up the first half of the season as they’ve exceeded expectations, but it would be naïve to think there wouldn’t be speed bumps along the way as they continue their stellar campaign.
To start, the Shreveport side came out looking like a team up for the task of taking on the conference veterans. Inside the first 10 minutes the Rafters had most of the time on the ball which speaks to the team gaining confidence with each match.
It was an odd philosophy for City as they wanted their massive yet lumbering center halves to keep a high line against the pacey duo Steven Bush and Nick Hammond. Seeing this inviting matchup the Rafters defenders (4) and midfield (3) sought to exploit the mismatch in speed.
On three occasions a ball lobbed to the Shreveport native forwards would find its way to their feet. While winning each foot race, it was last second efforts by Marko Jovanovic to clear the ball out- keeping the Rafters from getting an easy 1-v-1 goal.
In the 4th minute the Rafters had a wonderful display of chemistry as midfielder(R) Aaron Bergman sent a ball in to N. Hammond. Hammond, fully aware of his surroundings and teammates moving around the ball, played a perfectly weighted through-ball to the oncoming Matt Barcelona(L) right behind the cemented central defender. Barcelona’s soft touch granted him enough time to take a good shot that went low and just wide left.
City’s formation featured a 4-4-2 that could be a 4-3-3 as they moved forward. The right back of the home team stayed high trusting his fellow three defenders to cover for him on the break. This philosophy has been employed by many teams that the Rafters have faced and it’s clear the team is well aware and prepared for a lopsided flanked attack from the opposing team.
It’s apparent that the Rafters focus on every aspect of the game as the team had a surprising potent attack from throw-ins. Designated long thrower, Che Walcott, had 5 throws that were put well into the 18-yard box. Only one of them were cleared first-time by the home squad as City made keeping their goal clear, on thrown-ins, look really difficult.
It wouldn’t come until the 25th minute that City would have their first real opportunity as a good cross was met with a Dallas header towards goal that glanced wide right and high.
City would mysteriously avoid a card darker than yellow as a two-foot studded tackle came in on Dan Debleare that left the midfielder down for some time. It could be seen as frustration setting in as the rookie team had much of the possession.
As many people know, the game of soccer can be a cruel one. Despite being the lesser squad in terms of statistics and the natural eye, in the 40th minute City broke the 0-0 deadlock with a questionable goal. A cross came in from the right to the far post and fell to Ariel Mesa as his point blank shot found the back of the net. Albeit it was probably not intentional, the appeal for handball on the first touch by the forward could be brought into question.
The Rafters would enter halftime down 0-1 despite a well-played first half.
The second half would be one that was monotonous as City seemed content getting a 1-0 win and the Rafters in their usual pressing fashion. No changes to the formation of either team changed, however City did turn the tide on the possession as they had a ‘pass-pass, go forward if necessary’ mindset.
In the 64th minute City would double their lead as forward Mesa would come from the right side and hit a grounded left foot cross. With some unlucky out stretched misses by the defense, the ball found the feet of Damien Rosales as he was able to gather the ball for a placed right foot shot in the bottom right of the net.
While being down is never the state you want to be in, it is entertaining to watch a good team press with purpose and success, as that’s exactly how the Rafters responded.
In the 89th minute the Rafters were finally rewarded with a goal. Abdullah Rayyan hit a beautiful curling aerial through-ball to Childers who still had plenty of work to do with defenders helping to cover. Childers, with step-overs and magic, opened himself up to pass the defender and hit a right footed cross far post. The ball landed to forward Luiz Petribu. Petribu made Rafters fans and coaches alike hearts stop as his first attempt was a fake but he always knew what he wanted as the keeper and the defender in-front went the wrong way making for an easy right footed shot placed bottom left.
I’d like to thank the wonderful ball boys and girls for the Shreveport Rafters at Graf Orthodontics field as we have not once had a single issue, with not having balls constantly to play with whether our team is down or winning. This has not been the case on away trips and this one was no different tonight, as it was difficult to find a ball to play with as the Rafters pressed; time being of the essence.
With a frantic ending the match would end 1-2, Dallas City FC.
The Rafters sit 4th in the South Central Conference standings with a record of 4-3-1.
The Rafters will play the second leg of the Louisiana Cup as they face the Jesters of New Orleans, Tuesday night at Graf Orthodontics Field @7pm. If you haven’t heard, they’ll be in a spiffy Louisiana patented uniform. See you there.