FC Buffalo women drop first UWS match at Steel City

Photos courtesy Steel City FC

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FC Buffalo fell to Steel City 2-1 at Founders Field in Cheswick, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, dropping their record 1-1 in the young 2024 UWS season. 

The teams made up for a surprisingly scoreless first half in five minutes by scoring three second-half goals.

Steel City scored from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after FCB goalkeeper Brigid Mulholland fouled a forward inside the box. FCB first-year midfielder Gianna Tuzzolino tapped home three minutes later for the equalizer off a Kasia Bak blast, but Steel City responded a minute later with the eventual game-winning goal. 

Led by Nigel Dillard, Steel City played their third 2024 UWS match as they last drew 3-3 with Erie Commodores on May 24.

Last season, Steel City finished seventh in the table with 13 points. When both teams last faced off, the Wolves won both contests, including a 3-1 win at Founders Field. 

FC Buffalo began their season with a 4-1 win over FC Berlin at Buffalo State University’s Coyer Field with goals from FCB’s legendary captain, Carissima Cutrona, midfielder Sarah Woods, and forward Morgan Kulniszewski. 

Despite the 4-1 win, head coach Nikki Bartholomew shared that her team has room for improvement after Tuesday’s training session.

“As much as we were clinical, there were more opportunities to finish. Hence, our training session was a lot of finishing and ensuring we were more clinical. Also, just minimizing mistakes, especially in the midfield, as the season progresses. We are a team that has a lot of attacking, so when we lose the ball, can we win right away with our high press? Communication is key to preventing a counterattack and minimizing their [other UWS teams] space immediately so they can’t go out on transition.”

[ RELATED: Cutrona scores twice as FC Buffalo women open with win ]

Despite the scoreless first half, the Wolves and Steel City still displayed their offensive prowess as both created and had numerous opportunities to take the lead. Yet, Steel City goalkeeper Peyton O’Malley troubled the Wolves’ forwards the entire game. Right before the first half ended, O’Malley held her ground by preventing the Wolves from converting on a one-on-one opportunity. 

Bartholomew also shared how her team’s structure and lineup had to change as she knew she would be without the understated center-back Tess Ford and Sylar Cornell, who assisted in the 4-1 win. 

“It [the starting lineup] can vary from game to game, but the core will be consistent throughout the season, said Bartholomew. “This week, we don’t have two starters available this weekend—I am excited to use the bench more for this game.” 

Midfielders Eileen Solomon and Kasia Bak made their 2024 FCB debuts, while defender Charlotte Takacsy got her first start. 

Like the first half, Steel City’s forward line troubled FCB’s backline in the second half as the strikers made darting runs in behind the FCB center backs. A link-up combination between Steel City’s Kaitlyn Killinger and Emily Cooper allowed Cooper a dangerous opportunity inside the box. Mulholland fouled Cooper in the scramble for the loose ball, and the referee pointed to the spot.

Audrey Bianco would convert on the penalty, giving Steel City the 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute. 

The Wolves immediately reacted to get the equalizer as Wolves midfielder Kasia Bak’s vicious shot from outside the box led to Tuzzolino’s first goal for the blue and gold.

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Yet FCB’s celebrations were cut short as Steel City took the lead again a minute later. A cross was sent to Kaitlyn Killinger inside the box. She shielded the ball from defenders to set up Morgan Kost, who cleverly lobbed the ball into the net. 

Today’s loss against Steel City is FCB’s first loss in the UWS regular season, as Bartholomew’s team went undefeated in the 2023 regular season. 

Thankfully for FC Buffalo fans, their team will finally debut at Robert Rich Sr. All-High Stadium for a 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff on June 15. 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.

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