Boston City let a two-goal lead slip in a 3-2 loss away to the Rhode Island Reds as Fabrice Dogbey grabbed a hat-trick for the hosts, but there were definite signs of improvement from a Lions side that has endured a wretched season.
The rivals meet again in Revere at Harry Della Russo Stadium on Sunday at 7pm.
Three additions to the squad brought in by one of two interim coaches, assistant Roberto Mazzinghy, made an immediate impact and it was their influence that opened a 2-0 Boston City lead after 24 minutes.
Pedro Silva, who played in 17 matches for the Lions in 2017 and 2018, returned to the line up and made his presence felt in the heart of the midfield, often dictating the pace of the play. Attacking left back Francisco Neto was involved in most of the early probes forward and it was forward Hugo Bomfim (pictured) who grabbed the lead with 20 minutes played.
Having fired inches wide after four minutes and then seen a chance created by John Dumbuya snuffed out, Bomfim exchanged passed with fellow debutant Neto and slotted home a tidy finish for the opener.
Bomfim then chased down a ball forcing a defensive mistake inside the Reds’ penalty area and unselfishly pulled the ball back for Jhonata Batista to deliver a low blow from 18 yards out and double the advantage with 24 minutes on the clock. The strike brought Batista level with Dumbuya as the season’s top scorers with four goals each.
Mazzinghy, who took sole charge with fellow coach Cesar Deossa suspended for one match, had slotted Ben Manoogian into the back four and paired Silva with teenage midfielder Mateus Araujo, whose work rate shone through all night. That allowed Dumbuya and Rigoberto Jimenez freedom to roam out wide and for Bomfim and Batista to form an attacking threat.
At the other end, Jason Katz produced two brave saves in succession to keep the Reds at bay, but after 33 minutes, came to punch a loose ball and flattened Mawolo Gisse in the penalty area. The home crowd wanted a red card as the injured player thrashed around theatrically on the deck, but common sense prevailed, and the punishment was a yellow card and a Reds spot kick. Dogbey’s stutter step sent Katz the wrong way, so the Lions led 2-1 at halftime.
Batista was lost to injury at the interval, with the tricky Santi Cardona introduced in his place, allowing Dumbuya to occupy a more attacking position. The striker chose to shoot when through three against two on the hour, with Jimenez and Bomfim options to either side, then three minutes later Jimenez was denied only by a flying save. At the other end, Katz came to the rescue to keep the slim lead intact and deny Maxwell Kalombo.
Ten minutes after the Lions had missed the chance to move further ahead, and a spell of intricate passing on each wing had failed to create clear chances, Katz was exposed by poor defending and Dogbey equalized, making it 2-2.
Jimenez grazed the cross bar two minutes later and collected a yellow card for arguing that the keeper had got a touch on the ball.
The minutes from time, with the Lions pressing, the Reds made them pay with a lightning counter attack featuring three passes that ended with Dogbey sealing his hat-trick and the 3-2 win.
Jimenez might have stolen a point two minutes into time added on after Cardona orchestrated the move, but his finish was marginally off target.