In front of a crowd of 975 fans on Friday night, Lansing United opened up their first National Premier Soccer League season against the Indiana Fire at East Lansing Soccer Complex.
“It definitely was a good surprise,” Michigan State University starting goalkeeper Zach Bennett said. “I didn’t know 900-some were going to come out tonight, so it was really awesome to see the support.”
In a game that was physical and had a lot of back-and-forth play from the beginning, both teams could not find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
In the first half, Lansing United had seven opportunities to score off a set piece, earning five free kicks and two corners. But none of Lansing United’s set pieces put Indiana Fire goalkeeper, Eric Dick, under pressure.
Lansing United’s best opportunity to score in the first half came off a passing combination between Matt Brown, Julian Myers and Brian Cunningham, which forced Dick to come off his line and make a save.
“I thought in the first half he (Brian) was our most dangerous player,” Lansing United head coach Eric Rudland said. “He really really caused some fits for the opposition’s No. 3.”
The match continued its back-and-forth pace in the second half with the Indiana Fire getting a few more scoring opportunities.
The Fire’s best scoring opportunity came off a header from a cross in the 57th minute, which forced Bennett to dive in the air to his right to keep the ball from going into the upper-right corner of the goal.
“I mean he just pulled some amazing saves out and quite frankly kept us in the game,” Rudland said.
In the 64th minute, Lansing United was forced to make a tactical change, when United midfielder, James DeCosemo, made a hard-sliding tackle on Indiana Fire midfielder, Parker Victor, which drew a red card from the referee’s pocket.
“I thought it was a bit harsh to be honest. James literally was on the field for 10 seconds and he goes in for a tackle, and at most it’s a yellow card, but at the end of the day it is not my job to ref,” Rudland said. “We’ll make the changes and move on with it, but I felt bad for the kid to be honest. He comes on and it’s his first run in a Lansing United uniform and he gets sent off in 10 seconds.”
Having to play down a man, Bennett and the United defense were under pressure from the Fire offense for a majority of the remaining 28 minutes.
In the end, both teams could not put the ball in the back of the net as Lansing United’s first game ended in a 0-0 draw.
“The point almost feels like a win when you go a man down… and I thought those guys, the last ten that we had out there at the end of the match really pulled together and they showed some resiliency to just withstand the pressure the Fire threw at us,” Rudland said.
The next game for Lansing United (0-0-1) is on Sunday at 7 p.m. at East Lansing Soccer Complex against the Michigan Stars (0-1-0).
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: Lansing United