Crystal Palace gets off on right foot with 3-0 start

Baltimore team tops Wilmington, 2-0

May 11, 2008|By Todd Karpovich | Todd Karpovich,Special to The Sun

Andrew Marshall is one of Crystal Palace FC USA's most dangerous players because even as a defender, he has the ability to quickly move forward and support the team's attack.

Marshall (Towson University), who recently was named to the United Soccer Leagues' Second Division Team of the Week, again played a vital role and made several strong runs in last night's 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads in front of an announced 1,824 at UMBC.

Co-head coach Pete Medd said well-rounded players such as Marshall have been the difference in the turnaround of his team, which improved to 3-0 and has yet to allow a goal.

"Our guys don't like to lose, and losing really is not an option," said Medd, who shares coaching duties with former Towson University teammate Jim Cherneski. "We even practice that way. Everything is highly competitive. We definitely have a winning culture now."

Medd attributed this year's early success, compared to last season's slow start and fifth-place finish, to finding the right mix of players. Even though he is a former USL player, he underestimated the talent in the league when he was putting together his inaugural roster.

Crystal Palace plays with three forwards, and the offense wasted little time getting on the board last night when Gary Brooks volleyed home a cross from Bryan Harkin in the 10th minute. Matthew Mbuta increased the lead to 2-0 almost 12 minutes later off a header from Val Teixeira.

Wilmington's Trey Alexander appeared to cut the lead to one in the 69th minute, but his goal from 25 yards was called back because a Hammerheads player was offside. Wilmington dictated the play in the second half by winning most of the loose balls, but it could not find a final touch to get on the board.

"The second half wasn't what we were looking for, but when you score goals it makes things easier," Medd said. "We put too much pressure on our backs tonight. But it's all about results. It's about winning."

Mike Lookingland, a Loyola High graduate and defender for the Blast, also made his first appearance for Crystal Palace last night. Lookingland, who is expected to eventually play a vital role in anchoring the defense, said he is still adjusting to the outdoor game but likes the direction of the team.

"We have a good group of guys, so it is me just trying to fit in with them," Lookingland said. "We're 3-0, so we are moving in the right direction."

Crystal Palace FC USA was designed to be a farm program for Crystal Palace Football Club, a south London club that was founded in 1905. Several Crystal Palace FC USA players have trained with the parent club, including starting goalkeeper Brian Rowland, who played for UMBC.

Rowland finished with four saves on 12 shots last night. The match had several physical moments, and Wilmington was issued three yellow cards, compared with one for Crystal Palace.

"Today, I think we gave away a few more chances than we have in the other games," Rowland said. "It makes it easier in the back when we are scoring two or three goals. Wilmington is a difficult team to play against because they play a lot of long balls."

Marshall attributed some of the team's success to its ability to employ its players full-time, while some players on other USL second-division teams have other jobs. Players for Crystal Palace FC USA make between $1,000 and $4,000 per month, while other players in the division generally make between $700 to $1,500, team officials said.

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