FCB midfield keys postseason push

By Alex Beilman

All Photos: Dan & Margaret | Hickling Images

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FC Buffalo’s resurgent midfield has proven key in the side’s push for the postseason.

The group, regularly featuring Scottish internationals Johnny McBeth, Kieran Toland, Jack Donaldson and American Ian McGrath, has been a major catalyst for the Blitzers’ resurgent attack.

The midfielders are so often the lynchpin for any squad’s attack, bridging defense and attack. The Blitzers’ growing chemistry and resilience has played a big part in the midfield’s coming out party.

“We’re coming along quite nicely. We’re all pretty tough players, we all like getting stuck in tackles and the competition of the game,” said McGrath. “I enjoy playing with them and they only make me better. We didn’t have a lot of time to get gelled and get our chemistry up. We’ve got a grasp of how each one of us plays. I think we complement each other well in the midfield.”

Donaldson agreed.

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“It’s definitely come along. After you’ve played a couple of games you start knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and what you can play to,” Donaldson said. “It’s been hard, especially at the start. There was a lot of new boys on the roster. But now that a lot of the boys are regulars, it’s been easy to get to know them. A lot of the boys are like family.”

Of note has been McGrath. He has played every minute of each division game and also leads the team in goals with three. He has found his stride, and has been using his height to challenge defenders, especially on set pieces.

Credit: Dan & Margaret | Hickling Images https://www.flickr.com/people/dan_hickling/ Do not use without express written permission of FC Buffalo

“During my college season, I was all about getting up for challenges and winning real battles,” McGrath said. “I think I’ve been doing a good job with that. Set pieces have been really dangerous for us. I’ve scored off of two and assisted on another one. Every time we get a set piece or a corner kick we’re really dangerous.”

McGrath and Donaldson have also found their way into every division game this season. The latter’s pace and ability to place a good long ball have not yielded much in terms of personal stats, but have sparked an attack that has produced nine goals in the last five matches. The squad is 3-1-1 in that span.

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“It’s been a lot easier over the last couple of weeks. We start to implement their [the coaches’] ideas and what they want and all the boys are buying in,” Donaldson said.

Head coach Brendan Murphy has been happy to see his midfielders come together and begin producing in a meaningful way.

“It’s cohesion and chemistry. We’ve got a bunch of practice sessions under our belt and a bunch of games under our belt,” Murphy said. “We’ve figured out some of our weaknesses and some of the areas we need to work on. It’s about trust.”

With just two games remaining, the team is still handling things one game at a time. However, they are aware of their quality and know where they should be come season’s end.

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“When we come in, we set goals and the playoffs are our goal. The games come one-at-a-time,” Donaldson said. “The playoffs are definitely where this team should be and where this teams wants to be.”

Next up for FCB is another road trip, this time to Erie for a Saturday Erie County Derby match against Erie Commodores.