In what would end up being a particularly wild and crazy evening for the USL Eastern Conference, Penn FC managed to put together one of their most solid and consistent matches of the season. During their recent six match winless streak, they’ve been dealing with self-inflicted wounds and other frustrations that have left them just short of getting the results they need. But they managed to finally put all that behind them on Saturday on their way to a crucial win over Ottawa Fury FC.
There were not a ton of differences in the starting eleven Saturday night. Ken Tribbett and Pedro Galvao got the start after missing last week’s match and Aaron Dennis got the start at striker over Isaac Osae. Tommy Heinemann didn’t make the trip up to Ottawa and neither did Dan Metzger or Marco Franco. That seemed worrisome as all three have made significant contributions so far this season.
The first fifteen minutes or so of play were largely dominated by Ottawa as they lined up a few dangerous free kicks. But the Penn FC defense was able to hold tough and Tribbett made an excellent goal line clearance to keep things level. Penn FC took control for the next fifteen minutes or so, but they couldn’t create many dangerous chances. But they controlled much of the possession thanks to defenders Galvao, Kyle Venter, and Tribbett holding the ball while Jake Bond pressed forward.
It looked like the teams would enter the halftime scoreless, but Penn FC’s Paulo Jr. had other ideas. As the half wound down, Richard Menjivar made an interception and then sent a long pass forward for Paulo, who made a good first touch to get it under control. The Ottawa defense gave him too much space outside the top of the box, so he cut back and sent a ball for the bottom left corner. Ottawa goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was caught off guard and couldn’t get out to it so Penn FC took a 1-0 lead into the half.
The second half picked up exactly where the first left off as Ottawa stormed ahead looking for an equalizer. Carl Haworth nearly had one in the 47th minute, but defender Kyle Venter was in position to make the block with his chest to save a goal. This is the second time this season he’s made a Save-of-the-Week worthy stop.
Ottawa looked like they would have another opportunity in the 51st minute as they earned the first of three consecutive corners. But goalkeeper Romu Peiser was very active to deny all three corners and preserve the Penn FC lead. Ottawa continued to win set pieces as the Penn FC defense was tested, but nothing became of it.
Penn FC brought on Isaac Osae for Paulo Jr. in the 68th minute and that seemed to revitalize their attacking opportunities. Having him on the pitch made the counter attack a more viable option. Osae nearly found a goal in the 70th minute after he tracked down a lazy back pass by Ottawa, but Crepeau closed down just fast enough to keep him from getting an open shot.
Penn FC finally found their second goal in the 80th minute and it was thanks to Lucky Mkosana, Osae, and Aaron Dennis. It was Mkosana who started the play with a long through ball to an open Osae. As Osae pulled the last few defenders to him, Dennis made an open run up the right side. Osae slipped it to Dennis who stutter stepped his defender to get some space at the top of the box before rocketing a ball past Crepeau. His second goal of the year put Penn FC up 2-0.
The two goal cushion put more pressure on Ottawa, but the Penn FC defense wasn’t shaken. With players like Osae and Mkosana ready to spring a counter, Ottawa couldn’t push everybody forward and they didn’t create any really dangerous chances with the time they had left. Penn FC held on for the 2-0 victory and they finally defeated the team that has been a thorn in their side all season.
- The win over Ottawa jumped Penn FC to 11th in the East and they sit just six points away from the playoffs. With ten matches still to play, that’s certainly a closable gap. Ottawa remained in 8th even with the loss thanks to a few other key losses around the league.
- The head referee wasn’t calling a lot of fouls, but that seemed to apply to both sides equally. Ottawa was usually the team looking for a whistle, but the ref would pull out the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag to let them know it wasn’t happening.
- Penn FC’s match next Sunday will be their final home match of the regular season. Their last nine matches are all at FNB Field.