The Derby City Rovers wasted no time getting the 2016 PDL season off on the right foot as Brazillian striker Guilherme Fanck scored the opening goal in the 2nd minute at Woehrle Field on Friday night. After the quick start the Rovers settled back for the next 20 minutes, content to concede possession without allowing the visiting Toronto FC team any openings to penetrate and threaten their goal. Midway through the half the Rovers seemed to flip a switch and abruptly took control, looking confident in possession and circulating the ball from side to side and through the lines in an effortless fashion that has become a signature of the club's style of play. One sequence late in the half involved midfielders Sam Stockton, Yudai Tashiro, Matias Pyysalo, and Keane McIvor combining with a series of 1-touch passes down the left wing leading to a break-away for McIvor which the Trinidadian captain slid narrowly wide of the far post. Although the play didn't result in a goal it was the kind of slick passing exchange and overlapping movement of players that has Rovers fans excited about the potential of this technically gifted group of players.
The second half opened with the Rovers protecting a 1-0 advantage and Toronto FC turning up the pressure and pushing hard to equalize. They came close in the 67th minute when the Rovers turned the ball over after right defender Moustapha Fofana had joined the attack with an overlapping run, leaving them vulnerable on the counter-attack. With Rovers center-backs Daltyn Knutson and Nicholas Marcano sliding over to cover for Fofana, Toronto FC was able to find striker Steven Furlano alone in front of goal from about 12 yards out. The desperate lunge of a recovering Marcano, and the pressure from the Rovers on-rushing goalkeeper Stuart Ford proved just enough as Furlano's low shot skimmed off the outside of the far post and spun away to safety. As is so often the case in soccer, a chance goes begging at one end, the offending team is made to pay with a goal at the other end. The Rovers followed this cruel story-line, ruthlessly punishing Toronto's squandered effort with a brilliant free-kick goal from Finland native Aleksi Pahkasalo to extend the lead to 2-0 with just 20 minutes left in the match. From there the Rovers would cost to the finish line, turning on the style as they passed the ball around stretching and pulling at the tired Toronto defense until Pahkasalo was set free for a break-away which he would finish with aplomb, putting the icing on an impressive 3-0 win.
After the match Rovers Head Coach Lee Chalmers had this to say about his side's opening night performance, "I thought we played well in patches tonight, and showed a good understanding of how we want to play, and what we can be capable of this season. That said, it would be a mistake to look at the final score and assume this was a dominating performance. Toronto had chances to equalize and we were fortunate, or perhaps we did just enough, to maintain our advantage until we broke it open late. So while we were encouraged by some of the things we saw tonight we also take away a list of things we have to improve. We will enjoy this victory, but it will be back to work on Monday and we'll take each game one at a time."
The Rovers next game will be this Friday, June 3rd, 7:30pm as they host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Woehrle Field. Visit roverssoccer.com to purchase tickets.
The highest level of amateur soccer in North America, the PDL has a history dating back more than two decades that has helped top-level players rise to the professional ranks. Among the PDL’s alumni are players such as U.S. Men’s National Team members Brad Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Geoff Cameron. More than 200 PDL alumni competed in the 2015 Major League Soccer season, with another group of league alumni set to begin their professional paths following the recent 2016 MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore, Md.
The PDL has provided a major development platform for future professional players, with 12 of the league’s current membership being owned and operated by an MLS or USL club, or holding a partnership with an MLS or USL club. Seventy percent of the players selected in the MLS SuperDraft over the past seven years are PDL alumni, while Homegrown Players such as Gyasi Zardes, Harry Shipp, Darwin Jones and Jay Chapman also competed in the league on their path to the professional ranks.
The PDL has received strong support from both Major League Soccer and the USL as it provides a proven pathway to the professional ranks for top college-aged players in North America.
Aladdin Elfares tees up for a powerful strike