Entering their Monday evening clash with Lancaster, the Clarence Red Devils had not allowed a goal to a Western New York opponent in 2019. Unfortunately for the Legends, that still is the case.
A second half strike from Taha Ahmed lifted Clarence to a 1-0 win over the Legends to crown them champions of ECIC I.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest nor most dominant victory on the year for the Red Devils, but their ability to find a way to win is exactly what they’ll need come playoff time.
“I think this win, what helps is we see we can grind it out,” said Clarence coach Mike Silverstein. “This was definitely not the cleanest game. Conditions were tough … that’s what playoff soccer is going to be like.”
After a scoreless, contested first half, the Red Devils came out flying in the second half.
Within the first few minutes, they began to show why they’re the No. 3 team in the Class AA New York State rankings by creating a couple solid scoring chances, but they failed to finish them off.
Finally, with just over 21 minutes left in the game, a deflected cross fell to Ahmed on the edge of the 18-yard box, and with a little help from the muddy terrain that caused a defender to slip, he found just enough room to place the eventual game-winner out of the goalkeeper’s reach and into the back of the net.
“The conditions were not ideal for us, we’re a good turf team,” said Ahmed, who leads the squad with eight goals on the season. “Luckily for me, [the defender] slipped in front of me, gave me a lane to shoot, and I buried it.”
After falling to Clarence 3-0 earlier in the season on September 12th, it was a better effort against a talented team for the Legends, but not the result they wanted.
“I thought it was a solid performance, its just a matter of us having a little more composure in front of the net when we have our chances,” said Lancaster coach Luciano Gallo. “We just can’t seem to put the ball in the net.”
Part of the Legends not being able to put the ball in the net was due to the strong defensive effort from Clarence, who once again stifled their opposition to keep their eleventh clean sheet in twelve games.
“[The defense] is outstanding right now. They’re smart in the back and the communication, the teamwork, and the overall chemistry back there is great,” said Silverstein.
Both teams are back in action on Wednesday, as Clarence takes on West Seneca West while Lancaster faces off with Frontier.
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