HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It was the 36th minute and Penn FC was already down two goals despite starting the match off looking like the better side. Forward Paulo Junior had already had a good attempt on goal in the seventh minute of the match, followed by defender Tiago Calvano hitting the post off a corner kick, Rush Soccer’s First Team felt like they deserved a goal in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
However, midfielder Dan Metzger had just gone down with an injury and the team was reeling from another early deficit. The team needed a spark as it was awarded a pivotal set piece from a position that the team had found success previously in the season.
Penn FC earned a free kick from roughly 35 yards out, and the team’s assist leader, Richard Menjivar, stood over the free kick waiting for the signal. Meanwhile, Head Coach Raoul Voss worked to prepare Metzger’s substitute on the sideline.
Menjivar floated a ball toward the back post and defender Kyle Venter had enough space to run onto to the ball and, with a powerful header, buried it into the top left corner of the goal. In the 36th minute, even being a man down at this point, Penn FC brought back a goal and were only down 2-1 with plenty of time to play in the match.
“I saw that Kyle had a little bit of space and I tried to play it in front of him, so he can run onto it,” Menjivar said after the match. “Luckily, we were on the same page, we were able to get the goal, and that’s what gave us the momentum to try and find the second goal.”
The equalizer didn’t take long for Penn FC to find, and, in the 44th minute, Menjivar facilitated another dime and forward Lucky Mkosana was the beneficiary. Menjivar sent in a peach of a ball from the right side of the field, and Mkosana was able to track it down -- creating separation between the defender and himself and creating a nice angle to attack the header -- and send it past the Charlotte keeper to even the match at two goals apiece.
“Lucky had spoken to me before to see if I could play him behind the defender and I told him I was going to try and find him,” Menjivar said of the equalizing assist. “The next time I got the ball we sort of made eye contact and I put it to where he wanted it and luckily it was a good service and he was able to finish it.”
The goal gave Menjivar his eighth assist of the season which leads the team while Mkosana tallied his 11th goal of the season. It was a pairing that came easy for the two players who rank first and second on the team in appearances.
“I felt like they were cheating a little bit, stepping high and Richie saw me fake so I went to the back,” Mkosana said of the second goal. “He put a good ball in for me to go behind the defender and the ball was a little bit close to the defender for me to get it, so it was a well-timed goal.”
The goal was monumental for Mkosana as the attacking veteran notched his 31st goal for the Harrisburg-based club -- making him tied for the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
With momentum clearly in Penn FC’s favor heading into the second half, the Blue and White were unlucky in their efforts to steal three points at home. They were the more impressive side creating more chances and shots around the goal.
Menjivar nearly earned an assist hat trick in stoppage time when he sent in a strong cross from a corner, which found the waiting head of Mkosana. However, Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller showed off his quality yet again in FNB Field as he came up with another big save to keep the result at a draw.