Cleveland Force vs FC Buffalo preview: The Wolves look to bounce back in Cleveland

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FC Buffalo looks to get back to winning ways with a visit to Cleveland Force for a 6 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Krenzler Field (Stream the game live on Sports Engine Play).

Head coach Sean Hallas has started his tenure in charge with a 3-0-1 (1-0-1 in USL2) record, but his team encountered their first setback this season with Wednesday’s 10-man, 1-0 defeat at Toledo Villa. Andreas Kokoška was FCB’s Man of the Match in its first loss of the season as the Czech goalkeeper pulled off numerous crucial saves, His heroics weren’t enough for an FCB win.

“We didn’t start well,” said Hallas regarding Wednesday’s defeat. “The first 45 minutes were the poorest I have seen the boys play. Our first touches were off, communication was slightly off, and we were forcing the ball in certain areas instead of just playing through the lines or switching the ball side-to-side.” 

Hallas commends his team’s resilience in fighting through the tough schedule and views Saturday as a massive chance to get right. 

“To go away on a Wednesday evening in difficult conditions shows the boys are resilient,” said Hallas. “They still showed up and put in 100% effort. Saturday is a big game now to see if we will get a reaction from them.”

FCB will play the third of four-straight road games as they once again venture into Ohio. The Wolves end the four-game away stretch next week when they visit Fort Wayne on June 8 for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. 

Last season, the Wolves lost two of three to Cleveland, who finished second in the Valley Division. The last time both teams met, Cleveland won 1-0 at Williamsville South High School Stadium. 

Led by head coach Nick Taljan, Cleveland plays their third 2024 USL League Two match on Saturday and debuts in front of their home fans. They sit second in the Valley Division after defeating Dayton Dutch Lions 1-0 last Saturday. 

FCB will likely again look towards Ander Castillo to lead the forward line, as the Spanish striker has four goals and one assist this season and is steadily rising up the club’s all-time scoring list. The Basque Country-bred Castillo, still just 20 years old, is six goals off the top of the charts.

Dutch midfielder Timo Jansen leads the Wolves in total assists with two, while Kokoška will look to add to the highlights from Wednesday’s MOTM performance.

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“Squad rotations will probably be more used this weekend than in previous games,” said Hallas following Thursday evening’s training session.

He also mentioned how the players and coaching staff will tactically learn from the loss.

“It is more about the patterns of plays that we have to work on and hitting the big guys on top, like Felix [Kogler] and Ander,” said Hallas. “We will struggle if we don’t have a threat in our front four. We worked on that slightly with the boys.”

In this young, long USL League Two campaign, Hallas trusts his resilient team to learn and improve as the season progresses.

“Let’s go — It is what it is,” proclaimed Hallas when asked about his message to the team. “We’ve got to learn from our experiences and mistakes and do better on Saturday. But at the same time, it’s a very long season. We will be fine.”