MBFC Volesky

Phoenix took advantage of two penalty kicks while Monterey Bay F.C. missed a late opportunity from the spot and had to settle for a 3-3 draw on Wednesday night at Cardinale Stadium.

All three of the Union’s goals came in the first half. Christian Volesky, who has been dangerous of late, tucked in two, while Grant Robinson added the third—his first as a professional. But Phoenix goalkeeper Benjamin Lundt recorded six saves on the night and Monterey Bay missed out on a few other opportunities that would have meant a full three points.

Still, the draw pulls the Union even in points—at 39—with 8th place Oakland. Rio Grande Valley is clinging to the 7th and final playoff spot. Monterey Bay lags behind both in the tie-breaking goal differential category.

“Tonight wasn’t really our night—a lot of stuff went wrong,” Robinson said. “But in the end we didn’t lose. That’s what good teams do and that’s what we’re trying to be.”

A win would have vaulted Monterey Bay into 7th on the table. As it stands, both the Union and Rio Grande Valley have five matches remaining—15 points on offer—with a game in hand on Oakland. Further up the line, New Mexico sits in 5th with four to play. Just behind them in 6th, El Paso has just three matches remaining. Both sides are at 43 points.

“We can score against anyone,” explained midfielder Simon Dawkins. “If we go down a goal, we regroup.” 

Twice on Wednesday Monterey Bay retook the lead after Phoenix drew level on Aodhan Quinn PKs. And twice in the second half, the home side had opportunities to put the game away. Up 3-2 in the 52nd minute, Mobi Fehr raced past the Phoenix back line. Volesky located him with a neat pass and Fehr managed to slip away from the goalkeeper’s challenge—literally. After making a quick move to elude Lundt, Fehr lost his balance in front of the net and was called for a handball as he fell.

In added time, Seku Conneh drew a penalty and stepped to the spot as an anxious crowd of 3,529 looked on. It was the first time all season MBFC had a PK opportunity, but it did not aid the outcome, as Conneh’s attempt sailed over the crossbar.

“We had our chances to kill the game off completely,” Dawkins said. “We need to look at it and make it right in Miami.”

The Union travel to Miami on Saturday, Sept. 24 before visiting Las Vegas on Tuesday, Sept. 27 to make up a match that was postponed earlier this month. Three of Monterey Bay’s remaining five opponents are unfamiliar. In addition to Miami, the club takes on USL Championship Eastern Conference foes Tampa Bay (at home on Oct. 1) and FC Tulsa.

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Of the five, only Las Vegas (37) and Tulsa (35) have accumulated fewer points than the Union.

The regular season concludes with a trip to Rio Grande Valley on Oct. 15 that could decide the final playoff spot.

The Union downed Las Vegas 1-0 in their previous meeting back in May. It was Monterey Bay’s second win in the club’s existence. A week later, on May 14, a still struggling Union side fell 2-1 to Rio Grande Valley.

Currently, the Union are 12-3-14 on the season with a goal differential of -7. Rio Grande Valley holds a mark of 11-6-12 and holds a goal differential advantage at +5.

Depending on how the matches play out, Monterey Bay has the potential to jump to as high as 5th on the table—higher should they claim the full 15 points and other sides suffer catastrophic streaks.

Monterey Bay has taken points in 51 percent of the season’s matches, but have been on a charge, with points in 7 of their past 10. Over the past five contests, the club has three wins and a draw—a 10 point run.

Should that pace continue and Oakland, Rio Grande Valley and El Paso perform according to season form, 6th place is a realistic possibility.

At the top, San Antonio leads the Western Conference at 21-4-5 and 67 points, with San Diego (17-4-9) in second at 55 points. Monterey Bay lost twice to the leaders and split their meeting with San Diego.

In the east, Louisville City sits at the top with 63 points and a 19-6-5 record. Memphis holds second on 58 points, 18-4-7.

Monterey Bay memorably blanked Louisville 2-0 on May 21, launching them on a run of competitive form.

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