A first-half goal from Nazeem Bartman and Abdou Mbacke-Thiam’s first tally for Forward Madison earned the club’s first home victory of the season, 2-1 over FC Tucson in front of just over 2,500 fans.
“A long time coming,” head coach Matt Glaeser said of the win, just the team’s second in nine matches. “We need to continue to push. It’s a step in the right direction, but I think we’re better than what we’ve shown so far. I think we proved it tonight.”
The Flamingos were on the front foot early, generating three dangerous chances in the first 17 minutes, the third of which pressed Tucson goalkeeper Carlos Merancio into an impressive one-on-one save against Mbacke-Thiam.
Bartman broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, chasing defender Tyler Moss into the corner and forcing a bad pass and turnover to Madison’s Mikey Maldonado. Maldonado then found Bartman again at the edge of the penalty area, and Barman launched a rocket into the roof of the net.
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Tucson equalized just before the half, when a corner kick somehow found its way through a crowded box to the foot of Charlie Machell, who tapped it in.
Mbacke-Thiam opened his Forward Madison account just a few minutes into the second half. Midfielder Drew Conner launched a long ball forward from the center stripe, which Bartman chested down to the path of Mbacke-Thiam, who slotted a one-time shot past a wrong-footed Morencia.
Maldonado nearly doubled the lead in the 74th, as a quick restart on a free kick caught the Tucson defense out and allowed Maldonado in one-on-one with Morencia, who somehow got a hand out and pushed the shot aside.
The Mingos, who have been prone to conceding late goals, were able to withstand Tucson’s last push and see out the win.
“It’s confidence, it’s a mentality and it’s a massive step for us. Obviously, we had to lead on the road last week and we weren’t able to close it out,” Glaeser said, referring to a stoppage time equalizer conceded last Saturday at Central Valley Fuego. “Tonight, I think we took a step beyond that.”
“For the beginning (of the season), every time, we used to have good games here, but we were never able to win. Today we got the job done. And it’s happy for the whole team and the fans.”
Maldonado noted the team, composed almost entirely of new players at the beginning of the season, is coming together in recent weeks.
“From the preseason to now, it’s a completely different team,” he said. “We’ve been playing together for a while. We can’t help it. We’re with each other 24/7 so it’s just bound to happen.”
It was the first of five competitive matches for Forward Madison, who next host league leaders Greenville Triumph Saturday, then host German side Paderborn 07 for a friendly June 15 before traveling to Statesboro to take on South Georgia Tormenta June 19, hosting Richmond June 23 and heading to Charlotte to round out the month June 26.
The win bumped the Mingos from dead last to ninth in the USL League One table.