When Rocket City United last met Jacksonville United they handed the Floridians a 3-1 loss at home. This Saturday, when Jacksonville visited RCU's home stadium, they returned the favor with interest.
It was another frustrating evening for Rocket City's home fans, who have yet to witness a win for their side with victory only coming on the road, and rarely at that. Saturday's 4-1 defeat to the visitors was the most resounding result so far, but certainly not the first of its kind.
JUFC drew first blood early, but Rocket City was able to respond quickly enough to take back the momentum in the first half. As usual, there were a host of chances for the home side, but all but the equalizer went wanting.
Jacksonville's Robert Holstein put his side back on top just before the end of the half, putting RCU under pressure to respond once again.
"We came back out and attacked the second half and started positive," said Head Coach Gerry Cleary of the team's effort after halftime, "and then one person makes one stupid mistake and they scored from it."
That mistake put RCU 3-1 down and, "at this level," Cleary said, "the game is over then."
The game wasn't over for Jacksonville, though, who continued to absorb pressure and revel in missed chances from RCU before finishing the night off with a chipped goal from Tommy Krizanovic.
"The last goal we had three players around the ball and they had one player," said Cleary after the game, clearly distraught over the quality of defending. "One player calls for it, the other two leave it and he scores a goal. I've never seen anything like it."
There were a lot of tired legs on the field, Cleary admitted afterward, and the whole team is struggling with a squad that changes from game to game. But in the end, the result has to come down to the quality of play.
"The lads are trying but if they were a little smarter in the final third then it'd be a lot easier. We were just stupid. They were little school girl errors that we made tonight, it's ridiculous."
"Again we're saying Rocket City should have won a game when we didn't win," he added, "but maybe we're just not that good."
Cleary and company will now try to turn their attention to the final game of the season, next Saturday against the Georgia Revolution. Having yet to treat their fans to a win on home soil, RCU will hope that they can scrape out a victory against the favored Revs.
The task won't be easy, as the visiting Georgia side will have more than enough motivation to avenge the 2-0 loss they received at the hands of Rocket City at the end of last month. A win for the Revs on Saturday night would give them a chance to take the region if results in the weekend's other matches go their way.
"There's always a chance," Cleary said of the odds that his team can extinguish the Revs' hopes next week. "If it's one in a million then it means there's a chance."
As for what changes need to be made to prepare, well, they may have to think outside the box.