It’s been an unconventional week for the Columbus Eagles. Columbus came into Sunday’s match against the Cleveland Ambassadors on a quasi bye week. Last week’s fixture in Cincinnati was abandoned after just 12 minutes when it was discovered the Sirens violated Women’s Premier Soccer League rules by not having a trainer present at the venue.
This week’s matchup featured the top two clubs in the WPSL Valley division. Last season, the Ambassadors tied the Eagles 1-1 in a preseason friendly and defeated Columbus 3-0 later in the year. Cleveland possesses a quality team full of collegiate stars like Anna Rico and Sarah Krause, plus former National Women’s Soccer League players such as Jordan O’Brien and Nikki Driesse of the Orlando Pride.
Columbus struggled to get its footing at the start of the game as Cleveland claimed an early advantage off two quick goals in the first quarter hour. Midfielders Anna Rico and Emily Ogle set the tone for Cleveland, scoring the opening two goals just minutes a minute apart.
Momentum continued favoring the Ambassadors, as a one-on-one attempt was stuffed by Eagles goalkeeper Hannah Sargent in the 41st minute. Cleveland continued breaking down the Eagles defense and Kayla Fischer scored the team’s third goal with just minutes remaining in the first half.
In what is described as an “inspirational” half time speech from Columbus head coach Daniel Seiffert, the Eagles came alive in the second half. Columbus earned a free kick opportunity just outside of the penalty box in the 50th minute. Midfielder Micaela Powers stepped up and took the chance confidently. The Cleveland goalkeeper mistimed her clearance and Powers’ found the back out the net with the cheeky attempt with t he goal giving Columbus a glimpse of hope going forward.
Not to be out done, outside back Amber Kern took a confident run into the Ambassadors penalty area in 62nd minute, as midfielder Ashley Gogolin found the Eagles captain on an overlapping run. Kern was in on goal before she side stepped the keeper and finished the opportunity. The comeback was on as Columbus made it 3-2 with a half hour remaining. Hope slowly began turning into belief for the Eagles.
Looking to stop the Eagles momentum, Cleveland began to stop the comeback attempt. Columbus goalkeeper Hannah Sargent kept busy, stopping multiple attempts on goal in the 68th minute.
The payoff for the Eagles finally came in the 76th minute when Eagles midfielder Alison Harbart led Alexa Cheripko down the left wing with a through ball. She gathered the ball and attempted a cross to Erin Brockway, who awaited the ball in the penalty area. The cross didn’t make it to Brockway, instead deflecting off a Cleveland defender. Brockway, a veteran of the WPSL, wisely followed the deflection and scored, beating the keeper to the loose ball to stuff it home and complete the comeback.
Then, in the 78th, Erin Brockway pounced! And the comeback was complete! pic.twitter.com/JPuBseLTz1— Columbus Eagles FC (@ColumbusEagles) May 28, 2018
Columbus continued to turn the heat up on the Ambassadors, forcing the Cleveland keeper to make a couple of quality saves to preserve the tie and share the points.
A tale of two halves
Good teams find ways to get points when it matters. Many of the Eagles admitted the first half was “rather forgetful,” but Columbus found a way to claw back and earn a valuable point on the road against a talented Ambassadors squad. Many players attributing Seiffert’s half time speech as the “wake up call” they needed.
Defense is a great offense
The Eagles’ first two goals of the second half came from defensive minded players. Midfielder Michaela Powers and outside back Amber Kern fancy themselves as defenders and are more known for their physicality instead of their finishing. However, both players showed patience and precision to score quality goals for Columbus. To get offensive contributions from defensive players like Powers and Kern is a great sign for the Eagles going forward.
Columbus returns home this Sunday to play Motor City FC (Detroit) at Otterbein University’s Memorial Stadium in Westerville, Ohio. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.