On a beautiful night in northeast Ohio, on the campus of Notre Dame College, AFC Cleveland put on an offensive showcase against the Cincinnati Saints. Within the first minute of the game, the Royals scored after a penalty kick, resulting from a handball inside the box. Midfielder Antonio Manfut knocked in the penalty with ease. Only moments later, with the home crowd barely settled down from the quick opening goal, Manfut struck again, running in from the right side of the pitch, booting it from just outside the six yard box. The ball went in just past the left hand of goalkeeper Ben Dom.
Tension began to build for Cincinnati as the Saints began yelling at each other to wake up or get in the game. In the 18th minute a Cincinnati player came in with a late tackle on Manfut that resulted in a yellow card. Things did not get much better for the Saints as Cleveland forward Adam Mitchell crossed in many great balls, as well as had a few close shots on goal.
In the 30th minute, Cleveland scored again, this time behind the foot of Smart Osadolar. With the ball coming down the left side of the pitch, Mitchell and Osadolar had a two on one against a Cincinnati defender. A great pass by Mitchell set Osadolar free for the one on one matchup against the Saints keeper. Osadolar hit a low shot, beating the keeper to push the lead up to 3-0. For Cincinnati, their first shot on goal did not come until the 32nd minute of play.
Just as half was about to strike, AFC Cleveland forward Vinny Bell scored after breaking through several arm tackles and about three Saints defenders. All game long Bell’s height and strength played a factor in disrupting the Cincinnati back four.
In the second half, the Saints did begin to pick up the pace slightly. They came out of half aggressively, forcing several turnovers and applying pressure to the Cleveland defense, which had not been tested in the first half. This caught the Royal defense by much surprise, with the back four yelling much like Cincinnati in the first half. Smart Osadolar capped off the Cleveland’s scoring in the 65th minute.
After subbing off Manfut, Osadolar, as well as several other starters, Cincinnati was able to score twice. In the 69th minute, after a poor tackle, the Saints scored off a free kick. With three players on the ball, two passed on kicking before the ball was low struck, missing the wall, and rolled into the lower left hand side of the goal. The Saints second goal came in the 85th minute, after a cross from the right side of the pitch went into the box and slipped past the Royals keeper.
The Subside Sports Man of the Match would have to be Antonio Manfut. With two goals, great passing, speed, and agility, Manfut tormented the Cincinnati defense all game long. For much of the first half, he sped down the right flank, and it left the Saints defense extremely tired especially in near the end of the game.
When asked how it felt to score two goals today he responded, “ It felt great. First time out here, in front of the Cleveland fans, it was an unbelievable feeling. It was a great turnout and I was glad I came out with two goals.”
AFC Cleveland will move to their new permanent home at Case Western Reserve University next weekend. The Royals hope that their offensive form continues as the NPSL season progresses.