August 24, 2020 - The Maryland Bobcats wrapped up the inaugural National Independent Soccer League (NISA) Independent Cup with a 7-1 win against NISA team New Amsterdam FC (NAFC).
NAFC got on the board in the 5th minute when Carleton McKenzie got in behind the defense and finished with a shot over the onrushing keeper. The Bobcats were on the attack, but couldn't find the back of the net.
In the 12th minute, the game was halted due to thunder and lightening in the area, marking the second straight game these two teams have had weather delays impact the game. After a 35 minute delay, the teams came back out onto the field, had a quick warm up, and the game resumed.
Bobcats held most of the possession, but couldn't find the breakthrough. Then, in the 35th minute, forward Kingsley Onwuka tied the game at 1 after a fantastic ball over the top from defender Richard Forka. The teams went into halftime tied at 1, not foreshadowing what would come in the second half.
Elton Joe was subbed on for goalscorer Onwuka at the start of the second half, and he would provide an instant impact. Just two minutes into the half, Joe raced down the right side and sent a cross into Eduardo Jimenez who smashed it home. More would follow, as in the 61st minute, Elton Joe had another assist, breaking free down the line and firing a low cross to the incoming Kay Banjo who slotted it home to make the score 3-1.
Goals would come fast and furious after that, with Pilawe Pato scoring in the 64th minute off an assist from Javon Dawkins, Emilio Torres scoring his first competitive goal for the club in the 66th minute off a corner from Pato, and Banjo scoring off a penalty kick in the 70th minute to make the score 6-1. The 7th and final goal for the Bobcats would be scored by Torres as he finished his second of the day off a through ball from Sammy Kahsai.
The defense would hold strong the rest of the game, keeping NAFC at 1 after the goal was allowed five minutes in. Head Coach Phil Nana was happy with the result of the match, but also the Cup as a whole, "The game was a great confidence boost for our guys as we are finally starting to get our legs back after being idle for close to six months. Only having played three games in half a year, we are no where close to where we wan to be yet. The game and the Cup as a whole were positive steps for us in reaching our expected level of play".
With the conclusion on the game, both the Bobcats and NAFC completed their 2020 NISA Independent campaign. The Bobcats finished with 5 points (1 win and 2 draws) with 9 goals scored and 3 allowed. NAFC finished with 1 point (1 draw) and 2 goals scored and 11 goals allowed. The clubs will wait for the outcome of the New York Cosmos vs FC Baltimore match to see where they will finish in the table. Nana was grateful for the chance to compete and get high quality games under the team's belt: "We want to thank NISA for inviting us to participate in the Independent Cup. It was an honor getting to share the field with such great clubs and organizations".
Assistant Coach Ben Ayreetey echoed the Head Coach's sentinments about the Independent Cup. "The NISA Independent Cup was a great opportunity for our players to experience another competitive side of professional soccer as we continue to build our club. We really enjoyed the organization of the tournament by NISA and thank everyone involved."
The conclusion of the Independent Cup means it is time for the Bobcats to focus on their Fall season, whatever it looks like. The Independent Cup was a great way to play high quality games against other great clubs in the Mid-Atlantic. Club President Jay Saba said that "The whole Maryland Bobcats FC organization is thankful that NISA decided to include us in this competition. We are very grateful and it was an honor to share the field with such amazing clubs and for our players to see where they are in terms of match fitness. Our goal has always been to test ourselves against other clubs and see what areas we need to improve on - either on or off the field".
The end of the Independent Cup brings uncertainty with what the Fall season will bring. The UPSL Fall Season is set to kick off, but game dates and times are still to be detirmined, and scheduling is made harder by the different opening rules of areas in which teams play. No matter when the team plays, they will continue to train, get better, and be ready for if and when their next game is.