Fredericksburg Hotspur is experiencing a baptism by fire so far in its inaugural season in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League, and Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the West Virginia Chaos in their home opener at the University of Mary Washington’s Battleground Athletic Complex was a strong example.
Most of Hotspur's team has been playing together for a matter of days, and head coach Carl Gray said it showed against a seasoned West Virginia side.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Some of [our] guys were just meeting for the first time. Those West Virginia guys have been together for a bit and are a very good team.”
The Chaos (2-1) were fresh off a 2-0 road defeat to the Carolina Dynamo on Saturday night, but didn’t seem to be affected by the short turnaround in the game’s opening minutes. The visitors worked the ball nicely, pressuring offensively from the opening whistle, and it paid off in the 15th minute.
West Virginia earned a corner and Dion Peters sent the ensuing kick into the box, where it deflected off Fredericksburg defender David Contee’s arm, resulting in a penalty kick. Robert Vincent buried the spot kick to put the guests up 1-0.
The Chaos doubled their lead just over a minute later. Justin Garton collected a loose ball in the left side of the Hotspur box and fed it in front of the goal to Predrag Ivanovic, who put it away for a two-goal advantage.
The absence of regular center back Daryl Ferguson -- due to a red card received in Hotspur's season-opening 2-0 loss to Virginia Beach last weekend -- also played a part in Fredericksburg’s slow start. A couple of players were forced to play out of position to compensate, which caused some organization issues in the defensive third of the field.
"Not having Daryl back there really hurt us a lot today,” Gray said.
Fredericksburg (0-2) didn’t register its first shot until the 20th minute when Douglas Boateng rolled a shot harmlessly wide from about 20 yards out.
Hotspur goalkeeper Ryan Taylor (seven saves) stole the show for much of rest of the first half, making several big saves to keep his team in the game.
Fredericksburg improved when new addition Ryan Sappington, who only joined the team on Thursday, entered the game in the 30th minute. The substitution and a subsequent change in formation helped Hotspur settle down somewhat defensively and create some more offensive chances.
“Getting Ryan in there helped create a little more stability in the midfield,” Gray said. “We dropped another midfielder in front of the defense which allowed us to pressure [West Virginia] more in the midfield.”
Hotspur registered their first shot on goal in the final minute of the half. Fredericksburg earned an indirect free kick in the box and Zach Abaie ripped a shot that West Virginia goalie Sean Teepen tipped over the crossbar, keeping the score 2-0 at the half.
The second half began with Fredericksburg creating several scoring chances as the Chaos started to show signs of some tired legs after Saturday night’s loss.
Hotspur’s best chance of the half came in the 51st minute when Boateng broke in one-on-one with Teepen, but rolled a shot just wide of the far post.
Chaos coach Adam Mitchell said he thought his team deserved to win, but that the game could have changed significantly when Fredericksburg shifted the momentum over that stretch.
“Their goalkeeper made some excellent saves, he kept them in the game,” Mitchell said. “If they get one of their efforts to go in, their tails go up, it’s 2-1 and who knows.”
The teams battled evenly as the second half wore on, but the Chaos eventually added to their lead after making three substitutions in the 75th minute.
Orlando Zapata took a through pass from Vincent three minutes after entering the game and slipped a shot past Taylor to make it 3-0. The pair hooked up again about 90 second later with Zapata putting away his second for the final margin.
Fredericksburg is back in action next Saturday when it hosts the Northern Virginia Royals at 5:30 p.m. as the second game of a doubleheader between the clubs’ W-League sides. Also on Saturday, West Virginia hosts Virginia Beach at 7:30 p.m.
SHOTS — West Virginia: 20. Fredericksburg: 9.
SAVES — West Virginia: 1 (Sean Teepen). Fredericksburg: 7 (Ryan Taylor).
FOULS — West Virginia: 6. Fredericksburg: 10.
CORNERS — West Virginia 10. Fredericksburg 1.