The defending National Premier Soccer League Southwest Conference Champions were back at home in Pacific Beach on Saturday night hosting undefeated league leaders FC Arizona.
After 90 plus minutes at Mission Bay Stadium, the board read HOME 1 VISITOR 1; a result most teams in the in the Southwest Conference would have gladly taken before the match, but not Albion SC PROS. A draw versus the undefeated league leaders would be a plus for most teams, but for a PROS side that has it made it their personal business to attempt and defeat all challengers, the result leaves a desire for more.
From the initial whistle, the PROS took control of virtually every line on the football printed turf. A flurry of attack was served up by the PROS yet it would not suffice as Arizona came to San Diego with a specific game plan that seemed to take a bit of a toll on the PROS.
From the start, the PROS attacked on both flanks, as they tend to do, with Michael Sauers in particular making his presence felt on the right-hand side in the final third from the start. Early on, Sauers appeared to be clipped from behind on his way into the Arizona box, no call, a theme that has continuously plagued the PROS all season at home.
The triangle of creation in the middle with Michael Turner, Felipe Liborio and Sean Callahan would have a difficult spell, as Arizona was happy to sit back and allow the trio to come through the middle. They were always met with a compact wall of five defenders aligning in the back.
The PROS were forced to adjust on the pitch, as the circulation in the middle was not opening any space as Arizona brilliantly displayed their game plan. Liborio began to drift to the left and began finding space.
Liborio had one of the best opportunities for the PROS in the 28th minute with a bit of magic taking on two defenders before taking a sharp cut to the outside of box taking a rip that just went over the bar.
If Arizona was playing to their plan, the 31st saw the complete culmination of what they were looking for. A quick counter gave way for Cesar Mexia to find the opener for the visitors, receiving a ball inside PROS Jean Antoine’s box for a quick turn and strike.
The second half brought the incorporation of David Luquen who made an impact from the start. Two similar runs beginning near the center circle going straight at defenders, the only problem being the final touch. The PROS continued knocking on the door to no avail.
Ziggy Korytoski’s team continued to look for a goal, sending forward Tre Hayes to accompany lone striker Amani Walker who had a relatively quiet night, putting in more sacrifice having to drop and play as a post more than usual. The two towers up top proved to be fruitful as the two played off each other creating space for Liborio and Turner to open up the ball through the flanks.
Pressing forward, PROS captain Frankie Sanfilippo began making his typical runs up the right side, and just like that, the PROS opened up what seemed to be an impenetrable wall that was the Arizona back line.
As Arizona was playing out from their half, the PROS pounced quick on a bad touch. A lovely penetrating ball found Michael Turner pacing through the right flank. Taking a touch inside towards the box, Turner looked up as Walker was making his run into the box, and fed him a perfectly placed ball for a first touch strike making the net dance. After 80 it was all tied up.
The PROS attempted through both sides to break through an Arizona side that were content with the point. The final whistle blew in a cold San Diego night equally fitting the mood of the PROS with the draw.
It is a different culture for Albion. The defending champions are not built to drop points at home. It shows directly from Korytoski, never holding the reins back. Albion attacks on every pitch and plays for possession and creation.
The team has cloaked itself in this belief that the best defense is attacking and scoring. Even early in the season when the PROS faced a tough stretch playing away, the plan was never changed to salvage a point, it was always to fight it out and win.
Overall, it was another positive display for the PROS. They are still playing championship style football and making it attractive and stylish. The unbeaten run into the playoffs continues and will need to carry on as they stay home another week to face a Temecula side that is right on their heels.
The Albion SC PROS sit once again in 4th place in the Southwest Conference with 22 points after their 1-1 draw versus league leaders Arizona FC after 12 weeks of play.