UTICA, NY - In a crucial game to determine playoff positioning, Utica City FC traveled south to take on the team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Tropics. MVP candidate Gordy Gurson would score the overtime winner once again for UCFC, sending the visitors happy 4-3. With the results of this game and around the league, Utica City FC has clinched a spot in the 2023 Ron Newman Cup Playoffs.
Breno Oliveira would open the scoring for the home team early in the first frame, beating Andrew Coughlin from just outside of the box to take a 1-0 lead. New acquisition Taylor Bond would make his presence known for UCFC in his response, netting two goals to retake the lead for the visitors. After tic-tac-toe passing from Utica’s offense, Bond found himself alone down low and went bar down to open the scoring at 8:09. He then would capitalize on a rebound, enthusiastically celebrating the lead change at 10:16.
The back and forth would continue in the second quarter as Florida’s Thiago Freitas launched in a half volley from outside of the box to tie the game up at 9:23. This would serve as the only goal of a quarter noted by more defensive play than the opening frame.
Coming out of the gates in the second half, Florida took the offensive. However, a back-to-back set of saves from Coughlin held the game at 2-2. Florida would keep up the pressure and force a turnover deep in Utica territory. JP Reyes would poke the ball home to give the Tropics a 3-2 lead. Utica would provide an instant response with Bond receiving a through ball from Nate Bourdeau, cutting back, and hitting the roof of the net to complete his hat trick. The defenses on both sides stepped up with no clear chances coming until 11:33 in the third, when Freitas forced Coughlin into a foot save with a close-range shot.
Once again, it was the defense stepping up for Utica. With 10:14 left in the game, Couglin made another double save, getting down to his left before stopping the rebound opportunity with his chest. Tropics goalkeeper Hugo Silva would respond with a double save of his own 30 seconds later, stopping two consecutive shots from Stefan Mijatovic. With 5:43 left in the game, Utica would head to the power play with Breno Oliveira being charged with a boarding call. However, the Tropics would hold strong on the penalty kill with 3 blocked shots from Rafa Alves keeping Utica scoreless. The game would remain knotted up at 3-3 as the clock hit zeros in the fourth quarter, and both teams would get geared for overtime.
Overtime was a tense but eventful affair. Utica came out strong with three shots in the first two minutes. After those early chances, the game became more defensive and physical. Utica threw the challenge flag with 5:56 left in OT as it appeared that Bo Jelovac had been dragged down in the penalty box. After a brief review, the refs called no penalty and the game resumed. Only a minute later, Gordy Gurson would end it for Utica after firing a shot along the boards that snuck through the legs of Silva.
Utica City’s final regular season home game will be April 1st against Baltimore. Tickets are available at https://www.uticacityfc.com/tickets.