A draw usually shouldn't feel like this.
Kings Hammer FC scored with less than a minute to go in stoppage time to snatch a victory away from host Toledo Villa FC on Saturday night, ending 2-2.
"We were able to stop them for a bit and then that goal at the end killed us," admitted Toledo forward Jacobo Sanfeliu. "We really have learned a lot as a team so far, but we didn't deserve this draw. We worked really hard today as a team."
Coming in on the 62nd minute, Kings Hammer FC reserve Brock Kiper scored both goals for the Cincinnati-area club to pick up its third draw of the season (1-1-3) in a physical matchup that saw seven yellows between the two clubs and some heated exchanges of words as well.
"A lot of the games are physical at this level and that for sure was one," said Toledo Villa coach Matt Johnson. "We don't want to drop points and certainly they don't want to drop points either. And so there's a little bit of an edge to it. Everybody feels the pressure of trying to get into those top two (spots for the playoffs) and win games."
The draw moves Villa to 1-1-1 on the season. They will host Cleveland Force FC at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7 at Paul Hotmer Field on the campus of the University of Toledo.
"Although we didn't get the win, this was a tough team to play against," Sanfeliu said. "But I feel like we're getting to the point where we're getting better.
"I don't have a doubt that we'll win the next game and we're going to start a big streak."
Although Kings Hammer controlled some of the early play in the first half, it was Jayden Da getting Toledo on the board with a goal in the 33rd minute. Center attacking midfielder Ali Nassar deftly avoided Kings Hammer coverage and leaped over a defender while controlling the ball up the far touchline near midfield and struck a hefty through-ball up the middle to Da, who cleanly ran it down and skipped the ball into the net past Kings Hammer's Nicholas Lemen.
"Before we scored the goal, I thought they were getting the better of us," Johnson said. "We had to tweak a couple things in the way that we pressed it in front and I thought that helped us get into the game a little
"The goal was another one that swung momentum a little bit in our favor."
Toledo continued to hold pressure early in the second half and capitalized a second time in the match off the head of Sanfeliu in the 60th. A free kick taken by Ben Pleavin just outside the 18-yard box was sent in low and bounced into traffic. It popped up and Sanfeliu was able to get a touch on it and put it in the back of the net.
"Ben, he likes to put that ball always straight to the goal and anything can happen," Sanfeliu said. "I got to distract the goalkeeper, it was a deflection and I just went there and I knew I was gonna make it."
Kiper entered the match in the 62nd for starter Tanner Creech and made an impact quickly, scoring with a header in the 71st off a set play to make it a one-goal match. That goal seemingly charged Kings Hammer to make a frantic push late to even the match. With six minutes of stoppage time added on to the end because of some bookings and injuries to Toledo, Kings Hammer made a break into the midfield and John Grinstead used a well-positioned flick toward the right of Toledo keeper Jordaine Jaeger onto the head of Kiper who hammered it home. Less than a minute later, the referee blew the full-time whistle to signal a draw.
"Before the second goal and even after the second goal I thought we were the better team," Johnson said. "Once it got to the last 10 minutes, they rattled us and they got back into it."
Despite it being a square ending, the dejected look from the home squad was visible.
"Certainly the team that's ahead and loses the win feels like it's a little bit closer to a loss and the team that's behind and comes back feels closer to a win in a game like that," Johnson said. "With a lead, the little details of defending are really, really important.
"For me, that's just the lesson taking forward, particularly when you have a lead, you have to deny the ball going forward, the pressure has to be good, you have to make it difficult for them. And that didn't happen at times and I think that was part of the reason why they got a couple goals back."