On Wednesday, in front of a small crowd gathered at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, the New England Force earned a 1-1 draw versus Club Sport Herediano in a friendly in New Britain, CT.
The 2012 Primera División de Costa Rica champions and CONCACAF Champions League competitors brought several Costa Rican national team members, as well as former New England Revolution midfielder José “Pepe” Cancela, for the Force’s first public game after a series of closed-door springtime matches.
“It was excellent for us,” said Force head coach Jon Langer. “We’re a team playing our first (public) game, have had only had a few practices, and came out and drew a club that’s playing in CONCACAF with five of their national players on the field.”
The Force fielded a team of signees ranging from collegiate players like Colgate University senior captain and graduate Mike Garzi to veterans with national team experience like Sengalese national and former MLS player Birahim Diop.
In the first forty-five minutes, both teams made their fair share of runs into the other’s territory with Herediano’s Cancela providing service Mali national goalkeeper Mahamadou Sidibé made short work of while New England charged through the Costa Rican lines only to struggle at finishing.
Both teams took early shots as Los Rojiamarillos opened with a shot in the 3rd minute while New England’s first recorded shot on goal came twenty-three minutes in from forward and Stamford, CT local John Raus.
At the start of the second half, both teams came out shooting with Herediano trying from distance and missing wide. The Force then countered with a ripping shot from former DC United and El Salvador U-20 player Irvin Herrera in the 57th minute.
Three minutes later, Raus returned and fired at the Herediano ‘keeper who managed to deflect him, only to have Diop bury the loose ball.
“It feels very good, you know?” Diop said of his goal. “I’m very happy to have played against them in the first place and then score. It’s a good thing in our first game.”
As soon as the match resumed, Herediano began their counterattack with Costa Rican national player Esteban Ramirez surging towards the Force box.
In the 75th minute, another Costa Rican National Team member, Minor Diaz, would finish a corner kick to equalize despite Sidibé and Jamaican national Desmond Breakenridge diving for the ball.
Herediano nearly scored again a minute later on a rocket shot from Mauricio Núñez, but the crossbar denied him.
At the final whistle, after the Force held off a late onslaught with crucial saves from Sidibé, both teams shook hands and went to exchange jerseys as about two dozen Herediano supporters took photos with their favorite players.
“I think it was a great game,” said a Herediano staffer standing by his team’s taxis. “It was a 50-50 game. New England Force have a lot of future and 3-4 players who really make a difference. They have a good pace, a good rhythm.”
While the Force resume training and prepare for a match in New York versus CD FAS (El Salvador) on September 25th, Herediano will be heading back for a local tournament match on Sunday vs. Liga Deportiva Alajuenlense and continue CONCACAF play vs. Valencia FC on the 18th.