Boston City suffered a second loss in three National Premier Soccer League games in a narrow 1-0 defeat away to New York Athletic Club, despite creating a hatful of second half chances.
The Lions were comparatively lethargic before halftime and trailed to a 34th minute headed goal by Calum James, which proved to be the match winner. To compound the misery, head coach Palhinha was sent to the stands during the second half and defender Marcelo Cunha saw red inside the final ten minutes.
Boston City now return to Brother Gilbert Stadium in Malden on Sunday, June 3 against the Brooklyn Italians (kickoff 6pm) and second-placed Hartford Colonials six days later with victory essential to revive the team’s playoff aspirations.
Just as had been the case last week, the Lions enjoyed a wealth of possession in the first half, but rarely created a chance likely to trouble the home goal.
Jadson Leite, who came in for injured defender Paulo Henrique in the middle of a back three and had been booked after only 14 minutes, fired a 40-yard free kick straight at the keeper. Homero Morais scraped the outside of the post with a header with 22 minutes played but then the hosts took the lead.
New York Athletic Club had produced some promising raids down the right wing, but it was a cross from the left by Charlie Crane that caught out keeper Colan Balkwell, who came to claim the ball, but was beaten to it by the towering James, whose header nestled in the gaping goal.
Morais saw a 25-yard effort tipped around the post and Under 20s top scorer Raffi Desouza was added to the attack in an attempt to create more chances, but NYAC still led 1-0 at halftime.
Another striking change brought Wallah Randolph on for Rigoberto Jimenez, whose tireless running had not brought the equalizer and Sean Cookson was also added to the front line.
Desouza almost broke free of the attention of defender Juma Byabusha, who had broken up several Lions attacks and might have been guilty of a trip as the young striker headed goalward but was given the benefit of the doubt.
The best Boston City chance of the contest came after 66 minutes and should have leveled the score as Desouza supplied a cross from the left and Randolph’s powerful header rattled the upright. The rebound fell to Avner Alves, who skied his finish high of the target.
At the other end, Balkwell was quick off his line to deny a neat combination between James and Tom Yorston as NYAC gave a reminder that they still posed an offensive threat.
Boston City pressed relentlessly for the equalizer and a share of the points against a determined home defense. Isaac Addai created a chance with a chip to himself over the last defender, but saw his finish well saved at close range. Last season’s top scorer then delayed his pass when forwards Desouza and Cookson were begging for a cross and when he delivered a second chance, the English forward was robbed of the ball.
Tempers boiled over in the dying minutes and with Palhinha already having been ordered from the bench, Marcelo Cunha and Peter Ceesay both saw red as they tangled following a tackle.
The injury time dramatics that had salvaged a point during added time last week almost materialized, but a double appeal for a penalty, first for tenuous handball claim and then a shoulder charge on Addai were waved away by the officials.
Addai was handed a lifeline with a late free kick, but while last week’s finish found the net, this one bounced away off the defensive wall, sending the Lions home empty-handed.