The hosts took a commanding two goal lead thanks to a brace from Molley Karpeh Jr, and even though Chicago pulled one back in remarkable fashion, Maryland were still able to hold on to secure the three points at the end of the day.
Story of the match
The opening goal of the game came early on, as Maryland took the lead through Molley Karpeh Jr after just six minutes. A poor turnover at the back played him through on goal, and he made no mistake with the finish, slotting a first-time shot that snuck past the goalkeeper.
Chicago had the ball in the back of the opposing net a bit later when Matteo Kidd finished off a pretty attacking move. However, the sideline official’s flag went up to signal for offside since someone had gone a bit early in the buildup, so the goal did not stand.
They came close to tying things up at the half hour mark. A low cross picked out Ian Cerro, but his effort was hit too close to Joel Isyaq, who managed to make the save.
Maryland then had a great chance to double their advantage right before the half, as Kay Banjo managed to dribble past a number of defenders in the area. He just couldn’t finish, though, and his eventual shot was saved by Mike Novotny.
All in all, it wasn’t the most thrilling first 45, and the fact that there was no stoppage time added on was proof of that.
The second half was more of the same to start. Chicago thought they had equalized once again when Musa Morris hit the post with a volley before slotting home the rebound, but he was deemed to be offside by the sideline official.
Despite being second best, Maryland were the ones to score next. Tunde Akinlosotu found Karpeh Jr on the edge of the area, who took an excellent touch to break past the backline. He then did the rest, placing a shot past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Remarkably enough, Chicago responded almost immediately, pulling one back right from kick-off. It came in spectacular fashion, as Leonardo Acosta got the ball in midfield and decided to go for goal from distance, unleashing a strike that flew into the top corner.
That wasn’t enough, though, as they failed to grab the second goal that they needed before the end of the night. As a result, Maryland were able to hold on and secure three points that put them in front of Chicago in the league standings.
The duality of NISA was on show here. In their last game, the House played at a soccer specific stadium made for the professional level in front of a good amount of fans. In this match, they played at a high school sort of stadium in front of almost no one. Life comes at you fast.
Another indication of the league’s level is the fact that the broadcast of the contest, courtesy of Eleven Sports, didn’t show a single replay or highlight over the course of the night. That isn’t up to standard, and it made writing this article tougher than it needed to be.
Chicago came out with a new formation, starting with a 4-2-3-1 instead of the 4-4-2 they have been utilizing in recent games. That didn’t work, though. There were too many bodies in the middle of the park, which made finding space and openings tough early on. They became frustrated as a result, and head coach C.J. Brown had to switch back to their previous formation at half-time.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bobcats did enough. They took their chances going forward, and they were solid defensively, only conceding a screamer that came out of nowhere. The contest wasn’t an incredible one, but they won’t mind as they got the result that they wanted.
Man of the match - Molley Karpeh Jr
Molley Karpeh Jr certainly made the most of his chance in the starting lineup tonight, as he scored twice to lead his team to victory.
Someone who has spent most of the season on the bench, the attacker has usually been forced to settle for brief cameos. He was given the nod on this occasion, though, and that decision proved to be a very smart one.
His first goal was a bit lucky, as he was played through by the Chicago defense, but he did well to finish the opportunity that fell his way. His second was quality, to be fair, as a stellar first touch allowed him to blow past the backline before he slotted home with calmness and composure.
That proved to be enough for Maryland, who ended the day with all three points thanks to Karpeh’s performance.