Castillo’s hat trick makes club history in statement 5-3 win over Cleveland Force

Photos courtesy of @brettballachino

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FC Buffalo produced a statement 5-3 win at Robert Rich All-High Stadium as a hat trick from Ander Castillo and goals from Timo Jansen and Calum Newson led the Wolves over Cleveland Force.

FCB took a commanding four-goal lead in barely over a half-hour of first-half action. Newson opened the scoring in the second minute, and Jansen’s solo goal had it 2-0 in short order. Castillo would score FCB’s next three goals, which included a magnificent free kick in the second half to hamper a possible Cleveland comeback.

Near-perfection. Similar to how FC Buffalo defeated Toledo Villa 4-1 in their last home game, a dominant and ruthless first-half on the score sheet paved the way for victory.

The Wolves scored four goals in 31 minutes, beginning just over 100 seconds into the game. Three Cleveland defenders zipped over to Castillo, who chipped the ball inside the box to Dutch playmaker Timo Jansen. His side-volley attempt was partially cleared, but Newson did not miss his left-footed rebound bid for his second goal of the season.

[ RELATED: ‘Perfection’ – FC Buffalo coach, players thrilled with home win ]

Jansen was another stand-out in the game with his playmaking and dangerous runs, and he solely created FCB’s second goal in the 15th minute. Jansen’s press led to a Cleveland turnover in a dangerous place, and the University of Albany midfielder dribbled to the top of the arc. Using his weaker right foot, Jansen rifled a shot into the top left corner of the net for his first goal of the season.

FCB captain Max Kwitchoff then lobbed a pinpoint long ball from his half to Castillo, who ran past the Cleveland backline. Castillo bullied his way through on goal and was clipped by the goalkeeper for a penalty. 

Castillo rolled home the spot kick in the 20th minute. 

Three-straight unsuccessful FCB corner kicks led to Jansen being fouled three yards outside the right side of the 18. Jansen’s pinpoint service allowed Castillo to leap into the air and plant a perfect header over the line in the 31st minute. 

Jansen’s third assist of the season leads the team. 

The Wolves went into halftime with a comfortable four-goal lead. 

“That first half was coming,” head coach Sean Hallas said regarding his team’s performance in the first half. “The boys have played well for three-straight games; we didn’t create as many chances as today in previous games. The stuff off the ball still needs fixing, but we have a threat going forward.”

Like their last matchup, Cleveland’s frontline would still present problems to the Wolves’ backline as they scored two goals In two minutes. Gavin Csiszar ran from the top of the 18 and inside the box’s left side. He crossed the ball to Zsombor Onodi, who tapped the ball inside the net in the 57th minute. 

Cole Werthmuller, Cleveland’s captain, delivered a perfect through ball to Justin Shreffler and he ran past FCB’s backline to score Cleveland’s second goal in the 58th minute and fueling hopes of an away comeback. 

But FCB’s talisman would once again rescue his team and ease any tense pressure of blowing a lead. 

“I think we have the best player in the league. I’ll back that until that last day of the season,” said Hallas of Castillo. “He is providing strength, support with the midfield, and assistance. But he can get better, and that’s the scary part. He can produce more.”

Castillo finished his hat trick with what Hallas described as “the best free kick I’ve ever seen.” From nearly 30 yards out, Castillo blasted the ball into the top left corner of the net for a 5-2 lead in the 70th minute. 

An 89-minute goal by Werthmuller provided the final score of 5-3. It’s Cleveland’s first defeat of the season following a 5-3 Force win in Ohio. The two sides meet again on July 2 at All-High Stadium. 

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[ RELATED: FC Buffalo men on wrong end of eight-goal thriller at Cleveland Force ]

The leaky second half left Hallas discussing improvement on the defensive side. 

“I made a speech at halftime that they needed to wake up for the first 20 minutes. Every single team that we play is high quality, so they will come out and change a few things,” Hallas said. “We must realize that we can’t keep conceding goals in games and getting wins. We have to start getting clean sheets. The three goals we conceded were jumpy and out-of-position. In my opinion, that’s just gifting teams goals.” 

With back-to-back positive results against Fort Wayne away and Cleveland at home, Hallas is still proud of his quality roster, though he awaits more from them as the season only gets more challenging. 

[ RELATED: Lovell, Castillo lead FC Buffalo to impressive point at Fort Wayne ]

Castillo’s breathtaking freekick would mark history as his three goals gave him a USL League Two best eight on the season, 10 goals in all competitions. His 18 goals with the blue and gold are now tied with longtime forward/center-back Kendell McFayden for the most in men’s club history.

[ RELATED: All-time Team and Individual Records]

The Basque kid with the Buffalo tattoo shared how special it felt to tie the record in a place he can call home. 

“Since I came during my freshmen year in college, I have always been welcomed. Then, in my first year in FCB, all the fans’ support felt special. Like last year, it was raining against Fort Wayne, and we were losing 4-0. They were still there. It’s my time to give back to the city; I think with goals, that is fine.” 

Ander Castillo on FCB’s supporters

Despite the constant praise received the entire night, Castillo still credits the amazing roster around him daily. 

“I don’t think I am the best player. It starts with everyone on the team,” said Castillo. “Like today, I scored three goals; another day, it could be Timo, Calum, Felix [Kogler], or Max. Anyone on this squad can be the best player. And that’s what helps the team become better. Coach has built a really good group of guys. We have 18 guys here [in the matchday squad] but have 35 [full roster] that in every practice show up and make us better.”

[ RELATED: 2024 Men’s Stats ]

The Wolves return to the road to face Kings Hammer for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff at Northern Kentucky University’s Scudamore Stadium. 

FC Buffalo’s women’s team finally makes its home-opening return to All-High Stadium as they face Erie Commodores for a 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff. 

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.