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Palace fall late 2-1 to Charlotte

Crystal Palace Baltimore News Release -

Saturday, May 19, 2009

BALTIMORE, MD -- Crystal Palace Baltimore suffered their first home defeat of the season at the hands of the Charlotte Eagles, falling 2-1 Saturday night on a late penalty.

Matthew Mbuta gave Palace an early lead for a second consecutive night, but Charlotte came back in the second half on Steve Shak's 67th minute goal. The visitors' winning goal came in the final minute of second half stoppage time as the referee called a controversial penalty during a melee in the six yard box from a free kick. Jorge Herrera stepped up to seal the win for Charlotte.

Palace started strong and on six minutes captain Val Teixeira powered up the right wing, fed an overlapping Paul Robson and the right back drove a low cross into the box, but Kevin Trapp in the Charlotte goal just beat the onrushing John Nusum to the ball.

Palace continued to control the match with Red Bull New York loanee Matthew Mbuta linking up well with Nusum. On 17 minutes, the Bermudian international was put through by Mbuta but Trapp denied him at close range.

On 20 minutes, it was Nusum's turn to feed the young Cameroonian. Mbuta took the ball wide left to get around the Charlotte 'keeper, but after beating Trapp, his goal-bound effort was somehow cleared off the line by the retreating Chris Lemons.

A minute later however, nobody could stop Mbuta. He stole the ball from Charlotte defender Josh Rife 40 yards from goal, stormed up the field and waited for Trapp to commit before chipping it past him to give Palace the lead.

On 27 minutes, Charlotte had their best chance of the half when forward Taurai Daka fired an effort that looked to be heading inside the left post but Brian Rowland launched himself along the goal line to tip the ball away with both hands.

Mbuta continued to terrorize the Charlotte defense, but as half-time approached, it was Jordan Seabrook's turn to threaten after nice interplay between Teixeira and Mbuta, but the rookie's low shot just slid past the left post from 18 yards out and Palace headed for the locker room with a slender one goal advantage.

One minute into the second period, Matthew Mbuta once again was breaking into the box but this time, the Charlotte 'keeper made a sliding challenge and took the Palace player out just inside the penalty area. Referee Debbie Coleman pointed straight at the spot and booked Trapp for the challenge. Shintaro Harada stepped up to take the penalty kick, but sent his effort a foot over the crossbar. That miss would come back to haunt the Baltimore side.

Second half substitute Kevin Gnatiko was starting to have success with his tricky runs up the right wing, but his crosses weren't reaching Mbuta despite his best efforts to find space in and around the box.

Charlotte started to look more threatening as they searched for a way back into the game and on 66 minutes, Harada had to be alert to make an excellent clearing header from a dangerous headed ball from Dustin Swinehart into the Palace box.

A minute later, a long throw from the left ended up with Steve Shak eight yards out. He made no mistake and the scores were level.

Palace had a great chance on 70 minutes to regain the lead, but once again Kevin Trapp made a brave save to stop Teixeira after a great delivery from Mbuta.

The game now really opened up as each side threw more bodies forward looking for a winner, with Rife coming close for Charlotte, and Mbuta yet again denied by the brave goalkeeping of Trapp.

In the 80th minute, a beautiful sequence of one-touch passing between Paul Robson, Shintaro Harada and Dan Lader sent Nick Zimmerman on a run up the right. The Red Bulls loanee cut back inside, teed up a dipping left foot rocket from 22 yards out which beat the 'keeper but rattled the crossbar and flew out behind for a goal kick.

Four minutes of injury time were displayed by the fourth official and so began a frantic, end-to-end final spell. In the last minute of added time, Charlotte earned a corner on the left. The well-placed delivery was punched up in the air by the Palace 'keeper, but play was stopped by the referee's whistle as she awarded a penalty to Charlotte. The Palace players were bemused and sought an explanation Coleman for several minutes about the call but to no avail. Jorge Herrera stepped up, and though Rowland guessed correctly, he couldn't quite reach Jorge Herrera's low, strong shot. The Palace team and fans were stunned.

"We're absolutely gutted," said Palace Co-Manager Pete Medd after the game. "When you have three times the number of shots, chance after chance, to pick up no points after a phantom penalty call in the 94th minute is really hard to take. We're in total shock but we're going to have to find a way to get it together and beat Richmond next weekend. Kevin Trapp was unbelievable tonight but we've got to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net."

Palace take to the road next week to face Richmond on Saturday May 23, followed by the long trip to Western Mass on Tuesday May 26. The next game in Baltimore is a local derby as Real Maryland pays a visit on Friday May 29 at 7:30pm.

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