Story by Gabe Zitrin. Photos by Nap Ba here!
Playing any team sport means facing adversity – injuries, missed opportunities, runs of bad form by player and team – but on a foggy Saturday afternoon, San Francisco City Football Club’s Johannes Demarzi and Ben Brewster overcame all the obstacles they’d faceed to help City notch their first home win of the season, 2-0 over visiting Las Vegas Mobsters.
Demarzi’s late goal to seal the win was especially satisfying to player and fans alike after he’d been unable to convert a penalty kick moments earlier after coming in off the bench in the second half. Meanwhile, Brewster’s solid play in his Premier Development League season debut anchored a back line that kept a feisty Las Vegas attack from generating much in the way of scoring chances on the day.
SF City opened the scoring in the 12th minute from the penalty spot through captain Danny Kirkland. A long ball found debutant striker Matt Chasman alone in space as he entered the 18 yard box, and Mobsters goalkeeper Alex Clewis had little choice but to bring him down, resulting in a penalty and a yellow card for Clewis. Kirkland responded by calmly sending Clewis the wrong way and slotting the ball into the right hand corner, giving SF City their first lead in their last five games at Kezar Stadium.
City responded well to taking the lead and continued to press hard for a second goal. Chasman, a constant threat in his first outing in a City shirt, had a chance to score for himself a few minutes later after a gorgeous ball over the top from Dylan Murphy put him in on goal from a tight angle. Forced into a quick shot, Chasman fired off the top of the crossbar and out of play.
With comparatively little possession to work with, the Mobsters’ best chance of the early going fell to Mario Erpel, who made something out of nothing with a turn-and-fire from 25 yards in the 19th minute, beating City keeper Andrew Epstein but also beating the crossbar by a yard.
Unfortunately, Chasman’s day of threatening runs came to a premature end after the halftime break, when an apparent hamstring injury forced him off in the 54th minute. He was replaced by the returning Demarzi, who went down weeks prior with a hamstring injury of his own after a run of fine form for City in the NorCal Premier League and the PDL.
Before long, Demarzi had the next solid scoring chance of the game, as Trevor Hyman finished one of a number of gliding runs down the left side in the 63rd minute by playing the ball back to Demarzi in the box, but Demarzi’s one-time shot with his left foot was inches over.
Las Vegas substitute Forest Smith used his size and strength to earn the Mobsters their first dangerous chance of the second half in the 71st, leaving the ball for Ruben Duran to shoot from close range, but Duran was unable to stretch Epstein. Hyman made a sparkling run to the inside minutes later, beating several defenders and working himself enough space to shoot, but Clewis was well-positioned to make the catch along the ground.
As the fog descended to eye-level all over Kezar ten minutes from the end, City could see the finish line through it, and buckled down defensively while continuing to apply offensive pressure of their own. Hyman’s runs down the left side were complemented by a number of equally threatening runs down the right by City’s Bubba Kelly, substituted for Bryce Marion early in the second half. One such run in the 84th led to a cross whipped in to Demarzi, but the ball was on him in a flash and again the one-timer was just high. Another Kelly run moments later found him cutting inside to take the shot himself, but Clewis was up to the task.
Five minutes from time, Demarzi’s clever work on the edge of the box forced Las Vegas’ defensive general Robert Hines to concede a penalty kick, and for a moment it looked as if another converted penalty would end any chance Las Vegas had of getting back into the game. But the celebration would have to wait – Demarzi took the kick himself, and though his shot beat Clewis it rocketed off the crossbar back into the field of play and was cleared away.
But Demarzi, fresh off two open shots over the bar and a missed penalty, was simply not to be denied. His run moments after the penalty miss split the central defenders beautifully, and a long ball over the top found him in on goal with only the charging Clewis to beat. Demarzi made no mistake this time and sealed City’s first home win of the season, sliding the ball low past the keeper and into the bottom left corner.
But for all the celebrations by players and fans, City have no time to rest – they host division-leading Fresno Fuego on Sunday, July 10, at 3pm at Kezar Stadium, as the season heads into its hectic final week.
Man of the Match (off the bench, no less!): Johannes Demarzi
Best Gandalf-esque Return From Plunging Into Darkness Award: Johannes Demarzi
Best Lawyer On The Field Award (I’m assuming): Johannes Demarzi
Most Post-Game Awards Award: … Barry McCabe? How did that happen?