EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – The Muskegon Risers were getting extremely tired of playing scoreless soccer against Carpathia FC.
Two weeks ago the Risers and Carpathia battled to a frustrating 0-0 tie, then Thursday’s rematch was again scoreless at halftime, despite a huge shot advantage for Muskegon.
But the shots started finding the mark in an exciting second half, when the Risers fell behind 2-1 then scored three times to rally for an exciting 4-2 win at Oakridge High School.
The biggest hero of the game was Giuseppe Barone, who’s been on fire for the Risers lately. He scored the tying goal midway through the second half, then got the game-winner on a penalty kick late in the contest.
Barrone now has five goals in the last two games for the Risers, after netting three in a road victory over Milwaukee last week.
The victory keeps the Risers undefeated at 6-0-1 on the season and in first place in the National Premier Soccer League’s Great Lakes Division. They will play second-place Columbus on the road on Saturday, with a chance to clinch the division title.
“It was big for us,” Barrone said. “We talked about staying undefeated at home. It was a big comeback win and the guys showed a lot of character.”
“We didn’t have any panic,” said Risers Coach Stu Collins. “We were disappointed in the way we were playing. but didn’t panic. We knew we’d break through. It takes a special moment from special players sometimes, and that’s what we got tonight.”
The first half of Thursday’s game was pure frustration for the Risers, who controlled the tempo for the first 45 minutes, kept the ball in the Carpathia zone and outshot the visitors 8-0, yet came away scoreless at the halftime break.
Muskegon finally got on the scoreboard early in the second half when Rony Sylejmani popped in a rebound after a blocked shot.
Carpathia struck right back, getting a goal about 12 minutes into the second half, then taking a 2-1 lead when Chris Serwatka connected on a long shot that he put over the head of Risers goalie Akani Mayumbu, who had come far out of the net to try to head off the play.
Falling behind seemed to spark the Risers, who tied the game 2-2 when Barrone sent a rifle of a shot through heavy traffic from about 30 yards out.
Muskegon got a huge break late in the contest when TJ Ifaturoti was taken down with the ball by a defender inside the Carpathia goal box, and the Risers were rewarded a penalty shot.
Barrone took the shot and easily beat the Carpathia goalie from close range, scoring his fifth goal in two games and putting the Risers up 3-2.
“He’s incredible,” Coach Collins said about Barrone. “What’s been the most satisfying for me is that I’ve known him a long time, you see how much it means to him, and how much he’s enjoying it. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to help him find his passion.”
Ifaturoti added another goal as the clock ran down, and the Risers walked away with a very big win.