Castillo, Spina score as FCB takes first leg of Brewers Cup vs Erie

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Despite two seasons away from Robert Rich Sr. All-High Stadium, the FC Buffalo men delivered a familiar taste of home on Thursday as they began their 2024 season by beating the Erie Commodores 2-1 in the first leg of the 2024 Erie County Brewers Cup.

Ander Castillo won and converted a first-half penalty, and Matheus Spina took a feed from Niagara University teammate Felix Kogler to make it 2-0 in the second half before an Erie goal made for a tight end to the first leg, which comes days before coach Sean Hallas’ side begins its 2024 USL League Two campaign at 7 p.m. Sunday versus Toledo Villa FC at All-High Stadium. Single-game tickets are available here, while for a limited time you can get a season ticket to all men’s and women’s regular season games for just $60.

For the first 23 minutes, neither team capitalized on their chances nor maintained possession. FC Buffalo forward Calum Newson just missed on the right-hand side of the box following a counterattack near the 15th minute. 

FCB’s Timo Jansen, a talented playmaker from the Ajax Youth Academy and the University at Albany, shined in the first half with playmaking and range of shooting. His link-up between the strikers led to many first-half corner kicks.

Timo Jansen (photo by Brett Ballachino)

“Timo is an all-around class footballer and a very good asset for the club,” said head coach Sean Hallas, who debuted as FCB’s head coach. “Linking up with the two upfront and showing close control allowed Ander [Castillo], Felix [Kogler], and Calum [Newson] to get into the game.”

FCB found its offensive groove through Spanish striker Ander Castillo as he made deadly runs from the left flank. In the 31st minute, Castillo smashed a shot off the bottom of the left post, which landed for Kogler, whose shot was saved.

“Felix is very good back to goal, and Ander loves to get in behind since he has more pace than Felix,” Hallas said. “You gotta use the guys’ attributes the best you possibly can.”

Castillo’s one-on-one magic led to the Wolves’ breakthrough in the 34th minute; He was fouled inside the left-hand side of the penalty box, and his thunderous penalty kick opened the scoring for the Wolves.

FCB doubled their lead in the 60th minute as second-year Brazilian midfielder Spina slotted in a low shot to the bottom post following a lovely flick and combination with Kogler.

Andreas Kokoska played well but saw his clean sheet ruined by inches as Erie’s Guillermo Ferreiro, unmarked on a set piece, headed the ball just over the line in the 66th minute. Initially it looked out but the assistant referee raised their flag to call it a goal.

Erie, desperate to return to Saxon Stadium with a 2-2 result for the second leg, gained the confidence to push for a second. However, a late foul by Erie’s Dajun Barthley earned a second yellow card, leaving Erie with 10 men for the final five minutes. The Wolves held on for the 2-1 win. 

After a Tuesday testing of Lake Erie Life Summer IPA, the new beer created by the Buffalo Big Ditch Brewing Company and Erie’s John Russell Brewing Company, FCB fans got a Thursday taste of the latest summer imports. 

Following Wednesday’s training session before Thursday’s match, Hallas said the rotation and starting lineup for both the first and second leg would be a mix for the FCB’s veteran and new signings. The starting lineup had four returning players and seven new ones. 

Hallas mentioned that a leg injury to Luke Reidell, who pulled up making a run behind the Erie midfield in the first half, was not severe and that the whole squad should be fit for the next game. 

FC Buffalo begins its 2024 USL League Two on Sunday at 7 p.m. as the Wolves will face Toledo Villa FC at All-High Stadium. Single-game tickets are available here, while for a limited time you can get a season ticket to all men’s and women’s regular season games for just $60.

Next Wednesday, May 22nd, the Wolves visit Saxon Stadium on the campus of Mercyhurst University at 7 p.m. to play the second leg and determine the winner for the Erie County Brewers Cup.