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Resilient Steel City FC storm past Flower City Union, 3-2, to return to Conference Final

Photo courtesy Randy Warner

NPSL Great Lakes Conference Semifinal

Final: Steel City FC 3, Flower City Union 2

Tested both mentally and physically, Steel City FC responded to a halftime deficit with two early second half goals to storm past Flower City Union, 3-2, on Wednesday evening at Founders Field in Cheswick in a back-and-forth National Premier Soccer League’s Great Lakes Conference semifinal round match.

Steel City were led by Anders Bodroy, who had a goal and an assist and Anthony DiFalco, who scored a goal and also delivered the corner kick that led to a Flower City defender’s own goal.  With the win, Steel City advances to the Conference Final for the second consecutive year, where they will take on Akron City FC on Saturday night at Founders Field.

“We played some really good stuff throughout the match and I want to applaud our players efforts tonight,” Dan Brower, Steel City FC’s Head Coach said.

“I want to thank all our supporters tonight – what a great vibe and the boys fed off that energy from the opening whistle.”

Despite coming out of the gate on the front foot, Steel City were not able to convert in the first half hour — hitting the crossbar in the 25th minute, then were turned back a few times by outstanding saves from Flower City’s goalkeeper Parker Kump.

Then, things started to open up and got very interesting, with both Bodroy (Kiski Area/Memphis) and DiFalco (Franklin Regional/Memphis) front and center of the attack, while Nick Graeca (Dubois/John Carroll), wearing the captain’s armband, was rock solid in the central midfield for Steel City FC.

Steel City’s first breakthrough came on a fortunate sequence in the 34th minute.

Setting up a corner kick opportunity, Anthony DiFalco sent a ball to the near post area to find a deflection from an attempted Flower City header attempt, past goalkeeper Parker Kump and into the back side of goal.

The Steel City goal appeared to wake up the Flower City attack, as the match tilted in the final 10 minutes of the first half, with the visitors scoring twice in a matter of four minutes, capped by Rodrigo Almeida’s header coming from a free kick.

“We had a few lapses of concentration and Flower City made us pay to take the lead going into half but that is football,” Brower said.

“The question is how does a Steel City player and our collective respond? After a shaky end to our first half, I was so pleased with our 2nd half response. We only had to make a few tiny adjustments at halftime and the boys executed beautifully.”

Indeed, with their backs against the wall, Steel City turned things up a notch at the onset of the second half.

The hosts immediately went on the attack.  In the 50th minute, Bodroy had room on the right edge of the box, and delivered a bending ball toward the far post that managed to find its way into goal.

In the 55th minute, Steel City would take the lead back, when Bodroy found room on the right side of the box, then laid a perfect pass to the far post, where DiFalco came through for the clinical finish.

“The level of the game today was very competitive,” Bodroy said following the match.

“It definitely tested us mentally as we went down 2-1 after being up 1-0, but it also tested us physically being able to bring back a 3-2 lead.”

Holding on to the 3-2 lead, Steel City managed to keep the possession battle in its favor and created a few more chances to double the lead, but came up short. Flower City had a few moments where they advanced into the final third, but were turned back by outstanding defending which limited scoring chances to difficult angled shots and a few dangerous balls into the box, which were commanded well by SCFC keeper Garret Watson.

“With some great attacking play, we still unfortunately left some chances on the table and we’ll definitely need to clean up that part of our game over the next couple days,” Brower added.  “That being said, Flower City had no quit in them tonight and some last ditch defending by their backs and keeper certainly kept them in the contest.”

With the win, Steel City will now host the Great Lakes Conference final against Akron City FC, on Saturday at Founders Field (6:30 p.m. kickoff).

Akron, who finished tied with Steel City as both clubs had 24 points in the regular season, defeated Michigan Rangers, 4-2 in the other semifinal on Wednesday. In the only match this season between Steel City and Akron, they played a tight battle, ending in a 2-1 Steel City win on a late goal.

Brower expects it to be much of the same for the final, where a berth in the NPSL National Tournament and Midwest Region playoffs will be at stake.

“We’re excited to face Akron City this weekend as they’re one of the hottest teams in our Conference,” Brower said.

“They’re stacked with talented players and an experienced coaching staff and so we’ll need to be at our best Saturday night. We look forward to the challenge! Steel City vs Akron City for the Conference Final will prove to be a thrilling match and we’ll need our members there in droves to support our guys.”

Bodroy and his teammates will have a short turnaround, but will be ready for the challenge.

“We are all incredibly excited to play against Akron again,” Bodroy exclaimed.

“It will be another very competitive game, but we are all up for it and ready to show what we can do.”

Starting XI’s

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John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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