Fredericksburg, Va. – The Fredericksburg Hotspur continued an impressive start to their 2012 campaign by winning both of their road games over Memorial Day weekend. They began with their first-ever franchise win over the Carolina Dynamo, 1-0, and less than 24 hours later, defeated the Palmetto FC Bantams 4-1 in the first-ever meeting between the clubs. With the wins, the Hotspur find themselves in second place in the South Atlantic division with 10 points, 2 points behind Nashville, who also have a game in hand.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more from our guys,” said Hotspur coach Grover Gibson. “We had a couple of guys out with injury, and a couple of new guys who joined the squad this week. To go and get 6 points against two really tough teams on the road is a real accomplishment.”
The Hotspur started the trip against last year’s South Atlantic champions, Carolina, at Macpherson Park. The large crowd was treated to a thrilling contest, as both teams showed a willingness to attack and create scoring chances. However, it was Hotspur leading scorer Don Smart who was able to get the game’s only goal in the 20th minute. Smart received a ball from teammate Romena Bowie, and turned to see himself with a clear view of the goal from about 30 yards out.
“There was nobody in front of me, so I knew if I struck it well I could hit the upper corner,” said Smart. “I was able to get a good shot off and it went in. Carolina is a tough team so you need to make your chances count.”
The shot ripped into the upper right corner of the net, silencing the home crowd while the small contingent of Hotspur fans in attendence went wild.
The rest of the game was a back-and-forth affair that saw numerous chances for both teams; both Smart and Tishan Hanley were denied breakaway opportunities by Carolina goalkeeper Peyton Ford, and Hotspur substitute Josh West saw his blast from just outside the penalty box smack off the crossbar.
Carolina’s pressure on the other end nearly paid off in the 70th minute when an open header off a corner kick seemed destined for goal, but Hotspur goalie Colin Newcity, who had already made several outstanding saves earlier in the evening, came up huge with a spectacular one-handed diving save to preserve the win.
After the hard-fought game, Hotspur traveled south to play the Palmetto F.C. Bantams, a team also looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season alive.
Any concern Gibson had about his team’s fatigue was quickly put to rest, as Fredericksburg scored the game’s first three goals and never looked back en route to a 4-1 victory over the Bantams.
Smart continued his torrid scoring pace by tallying goals in the 13th and 50th minutes for the club. That gives Smart five goals in the team’s first four games on the season. Hanley added a goal and an assist as well, and newcomer Ryan Zinkhan also added a goal and an assist for the club.
“Zinkhan stepped in right away and was great,” said Gibson. “Assane Keita (also making his debut for the club this weekend) was just amazing in defense the whole weekend…Nate Shiffman was great. … It just shows how important it is to have a deep roster in this league.”
The team now gets several days off before returning to their home crowd at the University of Mary Washington’s Battleground Complex on Friday, June 1, at 5:30 p.m., with a rematch against the Bantams. They’ll then play the division-leading Nashville Metros on Sunday, June 3, also at home, at 2 p.m.