Forward Madison FC once again found it impossible to find the back of the net, despite creating ample chances, and Nick Moon scored in the 47th minute to give Lansing Ignite a 1-0 win at Breese Stevens Field on Saturday. The loss drops Madison to last place but still only five points out of the playoffs in the tightly-packed USL League One.
The Flamingos held 55 percent of the possession and unleashed 17 shots but only three on target.
“We can do as many finishing exercises that we want in training, we can talk about trying to attack as much as we want, but sometimes the soccer gods aren’t with you,” Head Coach Daryl Shore said after the match.
The teams looked evenly matched for the first 45 minutes and went into the break goalless, thanks in part to a huge save from goalkeeper Ryan Coulter on a point blank effort from Moon in the 27th. Defender Eric Leonard had done well to steer Moon’s run and cut down his angle, but the striker was still able to get a shot off from only about five yards away, and Coulter punched it away.
The second half started with a bang as just two minutes in, Moon pushed into the penalty area from the right and took a touch past Forward Madison defender Connor Tobin to give himself just enough space to put a shot past Coulter at the near post.
Much of the rest of the match belonged to the Flamingos, as several crosses were put over the bar or shot directly at Lansking goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland. Brandon Eaton put a blistering shot on frame from about 20 yards in the 85th but it clanged off the post.
Some questionable officiating also may have contributed to the result, especially at least one handball in the penalty area in the 43rd minute that went uncalled but could have given Forward Madison a penalty kick just before halftime. A shot from Paulo Junior went off the hand of goalkeeper Cleveland and bounced up into the arm of defender Grant Lillard, but either wasn’t seen by the referee, or the referee judged his hand to have been in a natural position and made an incidental touch. Forward players and supporters appealed for another handball in the area in the second half, but the evidence wasn’t as clear as in the first.
Additionally, Lansing Ignite Head Coach Nate Miller wandered onto the pitch at least once, and kicked an out-of-bounds ball away from Forward Madison players coming to take a throw-in, both of which are normally subject to discipline. On another occasion, a Lansing player who’d been injured and tended to on the field was allowed to continue without leaving the pitch, as is normally required.
“It’s shocking,” said Shore. “I’m never going to complain about the referee, it’s going to even out, but at some point we’ve gotta have some consistency.”
Apparently Madison striker Josiel Nuñez did do some complaining, and was shown a straight red card after the final whistle, meaning he will be suspended for Friday’s match at Orlando.
The loss comes at the end of a very busy month that included three away US Open Cup matches, including Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis FC, as well as league losses to South Georgia Tormenta and North Texas SC.
“I can’t use (the schedule) as an excuse,” Shore said. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. I would say our team is too good to be in the position that we’re at, but in fairness, we’re in last place, so maybe we’re not as good as we think we are.
The four-game losing streak comes after a full month in which the Flamingos couldn’t lose.
Despite the difficulties on the field, Forward Madison fans keep coming, with an announced attendance of 4,271 filling Breese Stevens Field Saturday night, well ahead of the league average.
“Hopefully they’re not going to stop coming,” Shore said. “The game was exciting, there was plenty of chances, they had chances too and Ryan (Coulter) made a bunch of big saves … I hope the fans still think its exciting. I’m sorry that we lost our last two games at home in the league and, hopefully they’ll keep their faith in us, and we’ll keep it going.”
Tobin, the central defender and team captain known around the soccer world as Turbo, took to Twitter after the match to apologize to fans and pledge improvement.
“@ForwardMSNFC fans especially @fwdflock and the rest of the supporter groups deserve so much more,” he wrote. “Changes will be made starting with Turbo as every person in the locker room has to give more. Players owe it to you fans.”
Last after 1/3 of the season is inexcusable. @ForwardMSNFC fans especially @fwdflock and the rest of the supporter groups deserve so much more. Changes will be made starting with Turbo as every person in the locker room has to give more. Players owe it to you fans.
— Connor Tobin (@TurboTobin13) June 2, 2019
Forward Madison travels to Green Bay on Wednesday to take on USL League Two side Green Bay Voyageurs in a friendly, then to Orlando to take on a side that struggled early on but earned a draw against Tucson on Friday.