Forward Madison FC came back from a goal down to win 2-1 over Orlando City B and secure the team’s first win in club history Friday night. The Flamingos had conceded from a penalty kick in the first half, but came out of the break firing - midfielder Josiel Núñez scored a curling effort to mark the first goal in club history, and then defender Shaun Russell poked home the rebound from a Núñez free kick with 20 minutes to go, which gave FMFC a lead it did not relinquish.
It was a historic result for the Flamingos, who had narrowly lost each of their previous two games, and sets the stage for an electric home opener next week on April 27 at Breese Stevens Field.
FMFC went on the attack early, launching several quick counter attacks that ended with shots on goal by forward Don Smart. Núñez came perhaps closest to opening the score in the 16th minute, escaping from a jersey tug to fire just wide of the near post.
Eventually, though, the Flamingos went down a goal. Orlando Striker and FMFC defender Connor Tobin both fell down in the Forward Madison penalty area, prompting referee Natalie Simon to point to the spot for a penalty. Orlando’s Koby Osei-Wusu converted, meaning FMFC had allowed two penalty kick goals in two consecutive games.
Coming out of the halftime interval, Orlando had the first opportunity to score. Granitur stole the ball off FMFC defender Shaun Russell in the 52nd, leaving him one-on-one with Forward Madison goalkeeper Ryan Coulter. With the situation looking desperate, Coulter sprinted off his line and closed down the angle, pouncing on Granitur’s shot.
Then, in the 58th minute, it happened. FMFC winger Paulo Júnior side-footed a pass to Núñez at the top of the box. With defenders surrounding him and no options to pass, Núñez took his chance at goal, striking the ball with the inside of his right foot. His shot curled away and back into Orlando’s goalkeeper, who reached out an arm but could only tip it into the net. Núñez had scored the first goal in Forward Madison history, and the score was tied at 1-1.
In the 70th minute, the second goal came. Orlando had been penalized for a handball just outside its penalty area, and Núñez stepped up to take the free kick. He managed to ping the ball off the crossbar, and Russell stuck out a foot and knocked home the rebound.
In true Forward fashion, though, the final minutes didn’t come easy. Smart received two yellow cards in the 81st minute, thus earning a red card and a sending-off. Down to ten men, the Flamingos had to persevere, holding off Orlando’s attacks throughout the rest of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time.
In the end, though, Simon blew the final whistle, and the celebrations ensued. Hundreds of miles away in Madison, supporters who had gathered together at bars and homes posted videos of their delirious reactions.
With its first win now achieved, Forward Madison will now return to Wisconsin next Saturday for its inaugural home opener at Breese Stevens Field. A limited number of tickets are still available for the game, but most have already been sold.