Kaw Valley FC erases early deficit in 2-1 win over St. Louis
photo by: Carter Gaskins
In a matter of seconds, Tucker Stephenson changed the game completely around.
During stoppage time in the first half, Kaw Valley FC elected to go for a quick kick rather than let the opposition set up for a wall. Stephenson blew by the defenders, delivering a strike from the left side to even the score at 1-1 just before the intermission.
Kaw Valley FC rewarded its scoring leader in the second half, claiming a 2-1 victory over St. Louis at Rock Chalk Park Friday. The victory ended a two-match skid for the Cranes, who move to 3-3-1 in their first season in history.
“I told the boys that it is why this is called a developmental league,” head coach Istvan Urbanyi said. “In the first half, we weren’t good as a team. There were a lot of ego-based decisions even though we had a game plan. It was very important to score the goal in the first half and the second half was good.”
But the Lions (1-3-1) seemed in control from the start after the two clubs finished in a tie during the first meeting on May 19.
In the 14th minute, Ali Sodal notched the game’s first score on the very first shot on goal. Josh Baker, who was credited with the assist, crossed the ball to the near side of the net. Santiago Sierra missed a chance at clearing the ball, and Sodal tapped the easy score in to give St. Louis an early advantage.
Less than a minute later, Miguel Yuste had a chance to answer on a shot that missed high.
The game was chippy for the remainder of the half with an abundance of fouls being called. A total of 21 fouls were given out in the first half between the two teams, including two yellow cards on Kaw Valley FC. Stephenson was tagged with one after contacting the goalkeeper in the 41st minute, while Yuste was hit with the other just four minutes later.
“This league is very confident,” Urbanyi said. “You can see a lot of ambitious players. Everyone is trying to prove, so these are not easy games.”
The style of the match was actually favorable for the hosts, however. The number of fouls added two minutes of stoppage time in the first half, and also had an emotional impact on both teams.
So when St. Louis was called for a foul late in the first half, many players immediately started to argue. As a result, the team was late to set up a wall. Kaw Valley FC wasted no time, as Stephenson buried the shot into the back of the net.
Stephenson, who plays at the collegiate level for Loyola of Chicago, notched his fifth goal of the season with the equalizer. He raced down the sideline in celebration, beckoning the home crowd to cheer louder. Stephenson, a native of Overland Park, has scored in all three matches in Lawrence.
“That changes everything,” Urbanyi said. “Last week, when we lost to the Menace, they scored the late goal. That killed the game. It is always important to come back in those crucial moments.”
In the 65th minute, Stephenson granted his team the lead with another strike from the left side. He ripped his shirt off in celebration, which forced the official to pull him from the match with another yellow card.
“He has to learn now,” Urbanyi said. “He has to bring a different kind of celebration next week.”
Kaw Valley FC, which played the final 20-plus minutes down a person, was able to hang on down the stretch.
Despite the disadvantage, Sierra, Jack Freeman, Daniel Kozma and Ryan Kellogg held their own along the back line of 4-2-1-3 formation. Santiago Restrepo, the team’s goalkeeper, finished with four saves in the win.
The Cranes posted a 6-5 advantage on shots, finishing with 24 fouls. The Lions were charged with 18 fouls.
“Even when we were a man down we had control of the game,” Urbanyi said. “We changed a little bit of the system. It was about the players staying focused and understanding what is going on.”
Kaw Valley FC hosts OKC Energy U23’s at 2 p.m. Sunday at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka.