The Columbus Eagles had the team’s first of three straight busy weekends full of matches. Both Saturday and Sunday’s games ended in 2-1 losses for the Eagles. Even though they add to their winless record with the team’s fifth and sixth losses this year, the weekend showed that early season one-sided losses were from a much different team than supporters are seeing now.
Saturday versus Cincinnati
The Eagles’ busy weekend began Saturday night against the Cincinnati Sirens. Only 14 players traveled for the match with the biggest shift coming in captain and midfielder Ashley Gogolin moving back to the center back position. This gave young midfielder Makaylee Zuercher the chance to get her first minutes with Columbus in 2021.
Even with a 7 p.m. ET kickoff, the weekend heat across the Midwest affected both sides. Cincinnati did not provide a match feed to see the contest, but interim head coach Mark Wise provided details to Massive Report post-match.
Cincinnati’s first goal came off a rare decision by the head referee. The Sirens had two players flagged offside by the assistant referee and the ball was shot in for a goal by one of the offside players. Instead of the match staying 0-0, the referee overrode the assistant and allowed the goal.
A second goal came on another refereeing decision. Goalkeeper Hannah Sargent and a Siren forward each went for the ball but the Eagles player was called for a foul in her penalty box. Cincinnati converted the penalty to go up 2-0.
In weeks past, Columbus giving up two goals meant the opposing team kept piling on. Even with a makeshift backline, Gogolin and the Eagles held their defensive positioning and kept the Sirens to their two-goal lead.
In the final 15 minutes of the match, forward Alicia Donley cut the deficit in half. The Eagles built up a run downfield and Donley made what Wise called a “beautiful goal,” but it wasn’t enough to avoid the 2-1 loss.
Sunday versus Lady Victory FC
Indianapolis, Indiana area’s Lady Victory FC traveled on Sunday with only two substitutes, similar to Columbus the day prior. The visitors too played a match the day before, away at local rival FC Pride, a 3-2 victory.
In front of their largest home audience of 2021, the Eagles brought 11 players back from the day prior. Fullback Sheryl Shope moved back to her natural position after playing alongside Gogolin at center back on Saturday. In her place was Michaela Powers, who was one of seven fresh players added to the Columbus Sunday roster.
The first 30 minutes of the match stayed scoreless. On the Eagles’ side, Sargent kept the match level after initial pressure from Lady Victory. Columbus was on the back foot for much of the opening portion before things began to open up.
Although the Eagles were down their normal starting defender, Monique Reventlow, Gogolin’s composure on the field helped create a strong duo between herself and Powers. Both veterans didn’t need much time to get on the same page and calm the game down. Columbus began to create chances, something the team rarely did in its last match against Lady Victory.
In the 34th minute, Lady Victory broke the deadlock. The away side built a play from defensive midfield, cutting through the Eagles’ midfield with a string of perfectly timed passes. The final move was against fullback substitute Erin Duffy who closed in on the attack as Quincy McMahon came open to receive a well-timed pass. After a shift from her left to right foot, McMahon scored a goal to go up 1-0.
The Eagles responded, controlling possession and creating chances of their own before the half. They finally broke through in first half stoppage time when forward Madison Costner intercepted a pass that the Lady Victory midfield was trying to keep in their defensive midfield. Costner got the ball to fellow forward Abby Townsend, who traveled half the field and made it into the penalty box. Townsend drew two defenders, which left Donley wide open on her left. Townsend slotted the pass between the two defenders to an onside Donley to tie the match right before the halftime whistle.
Columbus took advantage of the team’s numbers and fresher legs in the second half. Lady Victory looked tired from the heat and the Eagles created all the chances, the best coming in the 54th minute. Townsend sent in a cross to substitute Deijah Swihart, who chipped in a shot that hit just off the crossbar. This would be the trend for the Eagles for the rest of the second half.
Lady Victory had a difficult time keeping the ball. When the away side had their chances, they came from far outside of the penalty area. Columbus, on the other hand, sent in chance after chance but was unable to score.
Between the 77th and 84th minutes, the Eagles' backline took a few knocks. In the 77th minute, Powers made a turn in her defensive third and caught an opponent's foot. It took her out of the match for a moment and Lady Victory FC recorded a shot on goal that required a save by Sargent. In the next minute, Gogolin made a rare departure from the field after a collision in the penalty area.
This left Columbus down two center backs, with forward substitute Swihart making a tackle in her one minute in the role. In the 84th minute, first-year fullback Marike Mousset, who played Saturday in Cincinnati too, pulled up from an awkward landing on the turf or muscle cramping. Either way, she came off after proving in the last few weeks that her two-way play is important on both ends of the field for Columbus.
A Columbus goal kick resulted in the Eagles losing the match. Sargent sent a ball into the midfield area that found a Lady Victory player. On a windy day at Capital University, the kick didn’t make it as far as Sargent hoped, with no Eagles in the kick’s landing zone. Forward Monica Dolinsky received a quick pass off the interception and chipped it over the head of Sargent, who looked to disrupt Dolinsky before she could take the shot. The offside flag stayed down on a close play and Lady Victory left Columbus with a victory.
The Eagles have two more chances, both next weekend, to earn a victory. Columbus will play two matches in St. Louis, Missouri with opponents on both sides of the Eagles in the Midwestern Conference standings. On Saturday, the Eagles play fifth-place Fire & Ice SC at 8 p.m. ET. Sunday, Columbus plays the last-place St. Louis Lions at 6 p.m. ET. Supporters can stream both matches on the Eleven Sports website or app.