Utica, NY - Utica City FC kicked off the 2023-24 season with a home tilt against the Harrisburg Heat. In a tight battle, Utica pulled away right at the end to win 7-5 over the Heat. 

After a defensive start to the game, who else but last season’s MVP Gordy Gurson to kick off the scoring for UCFC? The forward found the ball bouncing around in the box and blasted it home for the first goal of the 2023-24 campaign. Utica would add another goal four and a half minutes later as Keaton Woods took the ball off of Geo Alves on the boards and fired a long range effort that found the back of the net. City would take a 2-0 lead going into the second quarter. 

UCFC would continue the offensive pressure immediately after the start of the second frame. Gurson found the ball outside of the Harrisburg box, cut to his left, and rolled a ball into the path of Geo Alves. The ball just nicked off of the toes of Utica’s #80 and just over 30 seconds into the second quarter, UCFC held a 3-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, Harrisburg found an answer with Alejandro Arbelaez scoring for the heat. The goalscoring continued for Utica, as moments later Rafa Godoi would launch a shot that got deflected before turning in an incredible volley off of the rebound to push the score to 4-1. The Heat kept pushing and found another quick response through Malcolm Harris. In just six minutes, each team had scored two goals and the score sat at 4-2. 

After a flurry of goals to start the second quarter, things settled down at the Adirondack Bank Center. Franck ‘The King’ Tayou was denied his first goal in Utica colors during the closing minutes of the first half due to a foul before the shot went in. The fouls were assessed as blue cards to UCFC’s Godoi and Harrisburg’s Roshawn Panton. Just 10 seconds after the restart, Utica were down another man as Mohamed Ndiaye was called for a tripping foul and sent to the penalty box. Harrisburg would make Utica pay, with former City player Joey Tavernese putting one past Andrew Coughlin in the UCFC net. That score would hold until the halftime buzzer sounded, with Utica heading to the break with a 4-3 lead. 

After the restart, Harrisburg continued the offensive pressure. What was once a three goal lead for UCFC was all tied up at 4 just two minutes into the third as the Heat’s Panton found the ball on a turnover, drove forward, and scored himself. Utica took the lead back just after five minutes had passed in the third off of a thunderous strike from Logan Roberts. Halfway through the third, City would head to a power play as Harrisburg’s Robert Williamson was sent to the box for kicking. Utica wouldn’t be able to convert on the man up opportunity. The game would enter a stalemate for the remainder of the third, with UCFC holding a 1 goal lead into the fourth. 

Once again, Harrisburg came out hot after the restart. Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, the Heat tied it up on a blistering counter attack. Harrisburg’s Dominic Francis finished at the near post, setting up an intense final 14 minutes. Utica found a 6th goal from the feet of Roberts after a couple of rebounds off of the end boards. With just 3:19 left, Harrisburg would have a power play after a sliding challenge from City’s Dylan Hundelt sent him to the box. Utica would hold off the Heat, and with 5.3 seconds left on the clock Nelson Santana scored his first goal in Utica colors on an empty net. The game would finish 7-5 in favor of the home side.

UCFC continues the season on Saturday, December 9th at 6:05 PM with an away matchup against the Baltimore Blast. Utica returns home on Friday, December 22nd–tickets for that match are still available at uticacityfc.com/tickets.