Forward Madison FC’s month-long, six-match unbeaten streak came to a frustrating end Saturday, as first-place South Georgia Tormenta stole a 1-0 victory at Breese Stevens Field in front of 3,762 fans.
Connor Antley’s 50th-minute goal from a corner kick proved the difference, as several acrobatic saves by Tormenta goalkeeper Pablo Jara and a bit of bad luck conspired to keep the Flamingos off the scoreboard.
Perhaps the best chance on either side in the first half was a rocket off the foot of Forward Madison midfielder JC Banks from about 25 yards away that was curling toward the left post and appeared destined for the back of the net, but Jara was able to swat it away with an all-out dive and a fully extended right hand. The sides went into halftime 0-0.
Tormenta was able to tally just five minutes into the second half on a corner kick that Madison goalkeeper Bryan Sylvestre attempted to push over the bar. He didn’t quite get under it enough, and rather than going over and out of play, the ball clanged off the crossbar and directly to the waiting foot of defender Connor Antley who scored easily.
Madison spent the last half hour on the attack and created a number of chances, including a header from Banks on the last play of the game that skipped across the face of goal and just wide.
Tormenta nearly sealed the deal in the 80th minute as midfielder Charlie Dennis got through the back line and ended up one-on-one with Sylvester about ten yards from goal, but Sylvestre went down and picked the ball right off of Dennis’s shoelaces.
“I just stayed big,” Sylvestre said after the game. “I stay big and just make them try to beat me.”
The loss comes in the midst of a trying stretch that’s included an away league match at Chattanooga that ended in a 2-2 draw as well as away wins in US Open Cup competition over Milwaukee Bavarians of the fourth-tier NPSL and a 3-0 upset of El Paso Locomotive of the second-tier USL Championship.
The schedule doesn’t relent yet, either — Madison travels to Dallas to take on second-place North Texas SC Wednesday, returns home for a friendly against Hertha Berlin of the top league in Germany, then heads to St. Louis for the US Open Cup third round on May 29.
“We’re not here to make any excuses” Head Coach Daryl Shore said of the schedule, which forced him to start Zaire Bartley and Jiro Toyama on the wings over Don Smart and Paulo Júnior.
¨It’s tough but again, no excuses,” Shore said. “We got beat tonight and it wasn’t from lack of effort and it wasn’t from lack of performance. It was just one of those things where we give up a set piece goal and just couldn’t find it on our end. Guys are disappointed but they also realize that against one of the better teams in our league, we were good on the night. Our soccer was good. Listen, this is a cruel game. This is a cruel game and you’re going to have nights where you play teams off the park, but you can’t buy goals and they score a goal. And to be fair, (Tormenta) were organized defensively and they made it hard for us.”
Sylvestre said mood in the locker room was disappointed but still looking up.
“We’re all positive,” he said. “We have to look forward and get ready for Wednesday. We’re not scared of (North Texas). We’re all going to try to get big points and bring it back to Madison.”
In their second match of the season, Forward Madison played North Texas, stocked with young players from the MLS club FC Dallas academy system including Men’s National Team U17 striker Ricardo Peppi, to a 0-0 draw for 93 minutes before giving up a penalty deep into stoppage time and ultimately losing 1-0. North Texas slipped to second place in the league Saturday after scoring twice after the 82nd minute to pull out a 2-2 draw with Lansing.