Independence, MO - Utica City FC continued a grueling stretch of away matches with a faceoff against the Eastern Conference-leading Kansas City Comets. In a game that saw two separate 3-goal leads for KC, Utica forced overtime in the Cable Dahmer Arena.
It took four and a half minutes for a breakthrough between two of the best in the East, and it was UCFC who led early. Gordy Gurson headed a ball off of the end wall that Taylor Walter Bond headed home for a 1-0 lead for Utica. Michael Lenis tied things up for the hosts two minutes later, off of a stretch pass forward from John Sosa. KC and Utica would settle down into a defensive battle until the 10:57 mark, when Comets goalkeeper Nicolau Neto found Leo Gibson on the side boards–and Gibson did the rest. The forward drove past the UCFC defense and fired a shot into the low corner to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. That would be the final score in a defensive first frame.
The second period followed suit, with more defense from the two sides. However, Nilton De Andrade was sent to the penalty box at the 4:13 mark. Twelve seconds later, Ignacio Flores scored a power play goal to give KC a 3-1 lead. Just over a minute later, Zach Reget was all alone in the Kansas City attacking zone, and powered a shot past Andrew Coughlin, giving KC a 3-goal lead. Again, Utica cleaned up the defense, not allowing another goal and the teams would head to the halftime break with the home side up 4-1.
With work to do in the second half, Utica had a dream start as just 22 seconds into the third De Andrade found the back of the net after a through ball from Keaton Woods. Reget responded for the hosts, going bar-down a minute and a half later and giving KC a 5-2 lead. De Andrade would capture his hat trick at the 4:54 mark, lifting a rebound into the roof of the net to cut into the home lead. Five minutes later, defense would turn into offense for UCFC, as Mo Ndiaye picked off the ball in the Utica defensive half, broke forward, and slotted a pass through to Franck Tayou, who did the rest. That goal set the score at 5-4 for KC, with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Utica, down by one in the fourth, kept up a strong defensive effort. Coughlin looked back to his best, making a point-blank save to deny Flores an easy tap-in goal. Just before the 6 minute mark of the quarter, Christian Anderaos took down Logan Roberts on a breakaway, giving Utica a shootout opportunity. Gordy Gurson stepped up and patiently waited for Neto to bite before slamming a ball into the top left corner to tie the game. With the game tied up, the next goal would be a huge swing in momentum. Fortunately for the visitors, it would be Utica taking a lead. A perfect pass forward from Juan Alava found Steven Fernandez who was able to round Neto and roll a ball into the empty net. After being down 4-1 at halftime, UCFC had turned the match around and taken a 6-5 lead with half of the fourth quarter remaining. Kansas City would continue to battle, and Leonardo Acosta lifted a laser into the top left corner to tie the match at 6-6. With 2:24 left in regulation, De Andrade was shown red for committing his sixth foul. Coughlin made another save on a Comets breakaway to keep the score level–and KC continued to push forward. The horn sounded, marking the end of regulation and a 6-6 scoreline meant that the match would head to OT. The overtime period saw back and forth action between the two sides. Ndiaye with a blocked shot denied Kansas City, and at the 2:03 mark into the extra period, Fernandez rocketed one into the top right corner to complete the comeback and give Utica City FC a 7-6 overtime win against the Eastern Conference leaders.
Utica closes out the four game away stretch with a tilt against the St. Louis Ambush tomorrow night at 7:05 pm EST. After that, UCFC returns home on January 21st to host the Texas Outlaws–tickets for the match are still available at uticacityfc.com/tickets.