In a crucial game in the hunt for the postseason, Forward Madison put some space between them and chasers FC Tucson with a 1-0 win Saturday night.
Right before halftime, an interception by defender Wyatt Omsberg sparked a counter attack for Forward. Midfielder Josiel Nuñez threaded forward Don Smart through on the right side in acres of space. The Jamaican curled the ball towards the far post and into the net to put Madison up 1-0 in the 44th minute.
“To be honest with you, it was a cross,” Smart said. “If it goes in I’ll take it.”
It was Smart’s team-high seventh goal of the season and came at an important spot for Forward Madison during a cagey first half. Tucson had most of the early pressure, and that goal before the half gave the team a nice cushion before the break.
“We definitely needed that. We were kind of a bit on our heels, the game wasn’t going our way and that goal was huge for the team,” Smart said.
Tucson certainly had Forward on their heels, and Madison needed the defense to come up big. Tucson After a corner deflected back out to Tucson defender Lamar Batista, his shot deflected off midfielder Eric Leonard. Goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre was quick to save and caroomed the ball away as Tucson players protested to the ref about a potential handball on the initial deflection. Minutes later, Batista found his header cleared off the line by Omsberg.
Afterwards, Madison started to settle into the game. In the 37th minute, defender Carter Manley — on loan from Minnesota United — breezed past his defenders and sent in a cross to forward Oliver White whose shot sailed wide.
In the second half, as the rain picked up once again and the skies threatened with lightning, Forward held onto their lead.
In the 79th minute, Nuñez almost made it 2-0 for Madison, but his free kick was tipped over by keeper Carlos Merancio Valez.
Sylvestre wasn’t as busy in the second half but some late pressure from Tucson led to one more huge save in the 86th minute to keep the advantage. Sylvestre reacted quick off a shot by defender Luke Hauswirth to give Madison only its third clean sheet of the season.
While there weren’t the offensive fireworks of Forward’s last game, a 4-1 win over Toronto II. Madison kept their three-game win streak going and held onto their fourth and final playoff position in the table.
Coach Shore said late season soccer isn’t about “winning pretty” and appreciated the effort especially considering the match congestion.
“We were a little bit on our back foot but we survived. Credit to our guys for sticking it out,” Coach Shore said.
Despite three games in one week, Shore kept the same lineup, and in spite of a slower start to the half, the team kept its energy up for the win.
“My dad always told me if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” Shore said. “We’ve got other guys that can start and come off the bench, but we’re not going to change much if it’s going this well.”
Now, FMFC have a whole week to prepare for their next game against the Richmond Kickers Saturday August 10. And despite the added pressure of the playoff push, Don Smart feels good about the way the team is going.
“We just got to keep the momentum and the same spirit in the team. If we keep playing like this day in, day out, I guarantee a win,” Smart said.