2-1 loss to Ottawa hands Westchester the division title but playoff hopes still alive
OCEAN CITY, NJ (July 16, 2006) - With a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Fury (5-6-3, 18 points) on Sunday night, the Ocean City Barons (5-3-6, 21 points) tasted a regular season defeat at home for the first time since their inaugural PDL season back in 2003. For the second night in a row, the Fury's Kevin Omukua scored both goals in a 2-1 win on the road, performing the feat at Delaware on Saturday as well. The game-winner on Sunday came on a penalty kick awarded to the Fury in the 70th minute as the visitors walked away from their weekend road trip with their first two road victories of the year in a span of two days.
After neither team established any consistent possession in the opening minutes, the Fury were the first to break through in the 18th minute. Omukua, last year's team MVP, dribbled through the left side of the Barons' defense, and slotted a low shot just inside the far post to put Ottawa up 1-0.
The Barons answered less than 15 minutes later when Ryan Heins found space down the left wing and crossed the ball to the foot of Ruben Mingo who directed it into the back of the net to level the score at 1-1. Mingo seems to have found his form as of late. After leading the club in scoring during the first three years in the PDL, the 2004 league MVP didn't register his first goal of the 2006 campaign until July 9 against Brooklyn. Sunday's first half tally was his third in as many games.
After the break, the game became more physical with tough tackles, pushing and shoving scattered throughout the half leading to five cautions. The foul that caused the most damage was a bad tackle in the penalty area by Barons' defender Chris Williams. A Fury player sprinted down the left wing and as he entered the box, Williams tackled him and got more of the player than the ball, causing the referee pointed to the spot. Omukua converted the penalty kick, his fourth goal in the last two games, giving Ottawa a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute. With the penalty kick conversion, he matched his 2005 goal scoring total with his 11th of the season.
After falling behind, the Barons changed to a more offensive lineup, adding leading scorer Jeremy Ortiz as a third forward. The scoring chances followed, but the ball never found it's way into the back of the net.
In the 81st minute, the all-out attack implemented by Ocean City received a heavy blow when Mingo was shown a straight red card for an incident that occurred away from the play. Very few people saw what happened, but referee didn't need video replay to see the "violent conduct" that took place against a Fury player, and sent off the team's lone goalscorer. With the Barons down a man, they continued to press and still managed to create chances.
Of those opportunities, the best effort came in second half stoppage time when a corner kick pinballed around the penalty area with at least two different Baron players having a crack at goal, but the Fury defense held on and were able to eventually clear the ball. Fury goalkeeper Angus Wong frustrated the Barons' attack all night long. He survived the second half onslaught, making 11 saves to secure the victory for the visitors.
Despite the offense's struggle to score, player/coach John Thompson felt that the backline should shoulder some of the blame as well.
"We've been letting in a lot of sloppy goals lately," said Thompson. "We've allowed two goals a game in the last two matches and that's not going to get the job done."
The Barons also failed to provide head coach Neil Holloway with an early birthday present. Holloway, who served the first of a two-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation on Sunday, will celebrate his 27th birthday on Monday, July 17.
Although the loss ended their home unbeaten streak that began during the 2003 season and gave the Westchester Flames the Northeast Division title, the silver lining is that the Barons are still alive for a playoff spot. The Barons can qualify by winning their final two home games (vs. Reading on Wednesday, vs. Westchester on Sunday) combined with a loss by the Williamsburg Legacy in one of their two remaining matches (vs. Raleigh on Friday, at Richmond on Sunday). Step one of that process will be to take on the Reading Rage at Carey Stadium on Wednesday beginning at 7:30 p.m.
OTT Kevin Omukua (unassisted) 18th
OCB Ruben Mingo (Ryan Heins) 32nd
OTT Kevin Omukua (PK) 70th
Ocean City: 17 shots, 3 saves, 13 fouls, 10 corner kicks, 0 offsides
Ottawa: 13 shots, 11 saves, 14 fouls, 3 corner kicks, 2 offsides