The Columbus Eagles began the team’s sixth Women’s Professional Soccer League season by welcoming rivals Cincinnati Sirens to Otterbein Memorial Stadium on Sunday evening. The match allowed both teams to renew an increasingly tense rivalry and marking the first meeting in league competition since the Sirens forfeiture last season. Unfortunately for the home side, things would not go the Eagles way, as the Sirens returned to Cincinnati with a 3-2 win.
Both teams began the match looking to establish a physical edge. Hard fouls and crunching tackles were the norm throughout the first 15 minutes. Columbus almost claimed an early lead 20 minutes into the contest when midfielder Brooklyn Pritt found Cameron Shedenhelm with a well-placed cross on the back post but the Sirens keeper made a tough save.
The Eagles found a way to break through in the 35th minute. Forward Micaela Powers won the ball from a goal kick with a physical header and quickly found a streaking Shedenhelm who volleyed it into the goal to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Cincinnati equalized roughly 10 minutes later in stoppage time of the first half. Midfielder Annie DeMuth beat Columbus goalkeeper Andrea Vera to her right off a free kick. The teams went into the locker room with the score at 1-1 at halftime.
The hosts regained the advantage 10 minutes into the second half. Some tough pressing from Columbus forward Natalie Horner caused a turnover inside of the 18-yard box. She collected herself and calmly finished the chance to the keeper’s right.
Just two minutes later the Sirens answered back as Macy Hamblin pounced on a poor touch from Columbus defender Megan Minnix. Looking to cover for her defender, Vera attempted to play the role of sweeper keeper but left an exposed net. The Cincinnati forward finished the chance to level the game at two goals a piece.
With less than 10 minutes remaining and searching for a winner, Sirens midfielder Abigail Zoeller found herself running out of options as she arrived in the final third. With the defense barreling down on her, the midfielder took a touch to her right, unleashing a shot and beating a diving Vera to her right. Her goal gave the visitors the lead with precious time ticking away.
Despite an enthusiastic last minute push, Columbus couldn’t find an equalizer and dropped its home opener to Cincinnati 3-2.
It’s no secret that head coach Matt Ogden likes to utilize a high press and on Sunday his team executed it masterfully throughout the first half, but did they do too much too soon? Columbus looked gassed toward the later portion of the second half and lost the attacking bite fans saw earlier in the game.
It’s not just Major League Soccer that experiences officiating issues, as controversy arose during Sunday’s WPSL contest. The officiating crew appeared to miss several calls in the late stages of the match.
No decisions effected the scoreline but allowed for dangerous play. The near-side assistant referee ruled a ball remained in bounds in front of the Eagles’ bench, allowing Cincinnati to continue an attacking possession. Ogden was irate, screaming, “that ball was out by a mile!” Those in attendance agreed with the head coach and expressed frustrations with the officials.
No more than a minute later, a rough play occurred on Eagles captain Ashley Gogolin, as the Cincinnati player played through the back of Gogolin. The suspected tackle went uncalled causing fans to verbally lash out at the officiating crew.
Columbus prepares for a short trip down Interstate 70 next Saturday with a date with the Dayton Dutch Lions. Kickoff for that match is 4 p.m.