Penn FC was looking for a lot of firsts during Sunday’s match. They were meeting Atlanta United 2 for the first time and Tommy Heinemann was able to score the team’s first goal of 2018, which happened to give them their first lead of the season. Unfortunately for the boys in blue, they weren’t able to hold on to find their first win of the season, and they were forced to return to PA with a hard fought 1-1 draw against ATL UTD 2.
Penn FC’s starting XI retained the same 3-5-2 shape that Head Coach Raoul Voss has employed in the team’s first two matches with just a few personnel changes. Calvin Rezende wasn’t in the eighteen players available after starting the first two matches. In his place was Sal Barone who moved up from left back. This freed up a spot for Richard Menjivar to get the start after first appearing on the bench last week in Pittsburgh. Harri Hawkins also returned to play at center back so Jake Bond moved out to right back and Marco Franco ended up on the bench.
These changes didn’t have an immediate impact as ATL UTD 2 controlled most of the tempo as the match started. But just like they have in previous weeks, the Penn FC defense was able to absorb the other team’s attack without allowing them many quality chances on goal. Despite having 63% possession in the first half, ATL UTD 2 was only able to produce one shot.
Penn FC waited for their chance and it came in the 31st minute with an impressive team display. Jake Bond won an aerial duel to send a loose ball to Dan Metzger. Metzger was able to send a long pass into the box in the neighborhood of Richard Menjivar. Menjivar knocked it down for Tommy Heinemann who blasted a rocket past Nicolas Caraux. It was Penn FC’s first goal of the season and it’s already nominated for USL Goal of the Week
The 1-0 lead held through the rest of the half, and it felt like Penn FC could see that scoreline through even while conceding a lot of possession to ATL UTD 2. But Penn FC’s plans were shaken up in the 50th minute when Tommy Heinemann was subbed out, apparently due to injury. Heinemann had taken a few hits in the first half, but it didn’t look like he went out because of any one particular play. My impression was that something didn’t feel right at halftime for him and he couldn’t get loosened up when he returned to the pitch for the second half. His former San Francisco Deltas teammate Saaliah Muhammad took his place.
Penn FC continued to be dangerous with limited possession in the second half, outshooting ATL UTD 2 7-4. However, they only managed one shot on goal and they had stretches where they struggled to create quality chances much like they had in their earlier matches.
ATL UTD 2 made the most of their best opportunity in the 63rd minute when they were able to break for a counter off of a Penn FC corner. Yosef Samuel took the loose ball in the ATL half and sent a long through ball for Lagos Kunga to track down. Kunga sent a cross for the far post that Jon Gallaghar was able to head into the net for the equalizer.
The equalizer seemed to fire up both sides and they both kept up the pressure as they tried to secure all three points. Samuel nearly scored the goal ahead goal for ATL UTD 2 in the 68th minute, but his header went just over the bar. Penn FC was able to use some solid passing to get the ball into the offensive third, but ATL UTD 2 was able to load up the box and most of the resulting chances were blocked or off target. Neither team could find the net before the final whistle blew, and the 1-1 result would stand.
- There were a few key debuts in Sunday’s match. Richard Menjivar made his first start and earned the team’s first assist of the season in the first half. In addition, Rush Soccer product Miguel Jaime and former Miami FC forward Aaron Dennis made their debuts as substitutes in the second half. Unfortunately, they didn’t get much time to make an impact.
- Speaking of substitutes, this was the first match all season where Raoul Voss used all three available substitutes, although he literally waited until the last minute to use the third. But after having to use one early in the second half due to injury, who could blame him for waiting as long as possible with his remaining subs.
- Penn FC will be taking next weekend off before they finally get to make their home debut on April 21st. By having such a late home opener, Penn FC should avoid much of the bitter cold weather that has been plaguing the other northeastern USL teams early in the season.