How a Penalty Kick and Eagles Press Were the Deciding Factors in Columbus\' Biggest Match of the Season
Published Jun 20, 2022
Written By: Thomas Costello
            Central Region Contributor


A busy weekend of soccer in Columbus, Ohio ended with a historic match for Columbus Eagles FC, welcoming Century United to Ohio’s capital city.


Playing for the third time at Historic Crew Stadium, the former home of MLS’ Columbus Crew and frequent host to the U.S. Women’s National Team, Columbus continued its winning ways, defeating Century United 1-0.


While the match didn’t have a flurry of goal scoring, like the Eagles' last match at the historic venue in a 4-2 win on June 24, 2017, it had its fair share of big moments. Leading the way for Century was a stellar goalkeeping performance by University of Pittsburgh goalkeeper Madison Vukas.


Vukas’ first came in the 7’ as Columbus found good fortune sending passes down the left sideline to fullback Sheryl Shope and the defender took two early shots – both sent away by Vukas.


Columbus’ press worked well in front of the crowd of a few hundred black and gold-clad supporters. The Eagles' tactics didn’t allow Century to put dangerous passes into its offensive half of the field and it took 36 minutes before Columbus goalkeeper Amanda Poorbaugh touched the ball.


While it’s technically a save, the lone chance for Century was a booming pass down the field that had too much behind it and Poorbaugh picked it up off the ground without much drama. The Eagles got on the board with the match-winning goal two minutes later.


Off an Eagles goal kick, forward Alicia Donley dribbled the ball down the field and found Bowling Green University midfielder Katie Cox running into the penalty area. Charging towards the net, Cox was pushed down from behind, earning Columbus a penalty kick. Cox finished off the chance, at the same end of the stadium where U.S. legend Abby Wambach scored a penalty kick in the 2003 Women’s World Cup, to put Columbus up 1-0 entering the half.



In the second half, Columbus’ press continued to work like a charm. For the first 20 minutes, the Eagles gave Century nothing to work with, but found their best opportunities as the match neared 70 minutes.


First, in the 67’, Century had a two-on-one advantage on a counterattack. Unfortunately for the visitors, the final touch was too much and didn’t give Poorbaugh any concerns.


Just two minutes later, Century found a large area of open turf as its offense made a move to get past Shope running down the left sideline. That gave Century a free ticket to enter the 18-yard-box but Columbus center back Monique Reventlow sat back and gave Shope time to reenter the play.


Shope ran up from behind and made a slide tackle clearance at the top of the penalty area. Had Reventlow gone aggressive towards the attack, a final move could have left Poorbaugh alone but the experience of the defender, who also played at the stadium in 2017, showed Columbus had the right focus to close out the match.


As the match entered its final 10 minutes, Century pushed on offense and in the 88’ and put Poorbaugh into action. With the visitors running towards the sideline, in front of the supporters’ section of Historic Crew Stadium, Poorbaugh made a diving save on a pass in front of the goal box. Columbus maintained its one-goal lead for 52 minutes and won its second in a row to extend its unbeaten streak to three matches.


Columbus’ third win of the season eclipses its entire 2021 win total, with two matches to go, and it continues a stellar record when the Eagles play at Historic Crew Stadium.


“We’re undefeated in this stadium facility,” Mark Wise, Eagles CEO and founder, said. “It was really emotional to give them the opportunity to be able to come out into the venue and show them what they’ve got and have people come out and see it and go ‘you know, that’s pretty good soccer!’”


That’s what the crowd of a few hundred people had on Sunday. Inside a stadium that holds almost 20,000 spectators, the supporters still created an atmosphere of support around the Eagles. Many supporters who watch the Columbus Crew men’s professional team saw their first Eagles match and repurposed chants and songs from the Crew for the Eagles.


After the final whistle, the Eagles walked over to the north corner of the stadium and applauded the home support. It was a moment appreciated by the team and putting the icing of a win on the cake of playing at a professional stadium makes it even better.


“To see the fans there was just incredible,” Dani Gunderson, Columbus midfielder, said. “Secondly, to come away with a win, a huge win to put us into second place, was amazing.”


Within the Eagles roster itself, Gunderson and Shope shared earlier in the week that they weren’t sure how the younger players would react to the moment. There wasn’t a lot of chatter within the team at practice about Sunday, but when it came time to play, the excitement was evident.


“When some of the younger ones came into the locker room space and walk out and see that stadium, instantly their eyes lit up and their phones came out,” Gunderson said, talking about a younger generation of players posting their day on social media as a sign of the day’s importance.


It wasn’t only the players that felt the excitement, it was head coach Matt Ogden. While Ogden still had the focus and attention to detail that the players are used to, even the match at Historic Crew Stadium brought another, more animated, side out of the Capital University women’s soccer coach.


“My coach came up to me and he said, ‘We should do this for every game! We should talk to someone and get it,’” Wise said. “I’d never seen him so animated when he got in here and looked around, he was excited for the ladies.”


Ogden used the stadium and the moment as motivation, telling the team that winning here and bringing the energy is what gives them the chance to have more moments in the future. It was an energy that Ogden carried from warm-ups through the final whistle, propelling the Eagles to victory.


With the victory, Columbus is now in second place with 10 points as its growth on the field carries momentum through the end of the season. The Eagles welcome Ambassadors Cleveland and Cleveland Ambassadors to Capital University’s Bernlohr Stadium over the next two weekends to close out its 2022 WPSL regular-season campaign.