Crystal Palace began their US tour with a thumping 5-2 against sister club, Crystal Palace USA in the first friendly match of the team's American pre-season tour.
The game was played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 2,136 on a warm evening at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Maryland. The stadium is the home of Atlantic League baseball club, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, but the field was specially adapted for this event, the first professional soccer match ever played there.
Neil Warnock started quite a strong lineup, including youngsters Victor Moses and fellow England youth player, Freddie Sears.
For their part, Baltimore co-managers Pete Medd and Jim Cherneski fielded their regular starters for this exhibition match which would determine the winner of the Medd Cup, inaugurated when the two sides met in 2007 at Selhurst Park in London.
The early going was fairly even as each side found their rhythm, with the ball remaining bogged down in the middle third of the pitch for the most part.
The game opened up as the 10 minute mark was reached as Darren Ambrose and Shaun Derry started to make inroads for the London side, while for the American team, Jordan Seabrook was beginning to find space in dangerous positions.
In the 12th minute, Stephen Basso made a crucial saving tackle in the penalty area, but from the ensuing throw-in, Sears crossed to the back post where unmarked target man Alan Lee had the simplest of headers to open the scoring, putting Palace UK 1-0 ahead.
The goal seemed to spark a greater sense of urgency in the Baltimore side. Three minutes later Pat Healey laid a ball off to Dan Lader on the right touch line and made a dash for the box. Lader sent in a telling cross that Healey headed poorly from 15 yards out. Another minute later, from a throw-in, Flores picked out Seabrook making a run up the right touch-line. Seabrook sent a cross over to Healey who struck a low effort about 12 yards from goal but Julian Speroni got down well to save.
On 18 minutes, Paul Robson left the ball for Val Teixeira on the right, 25 yards from goal. The Palace captain then turned Clint Hill and teed up a left-footed shot that Paddy McCarthy could only block straight up in the air. McCarthy misjudged the ball as it bounced on the edge of the box, allowing Teixeira time to line up a second attempt which he directed past Speroni at the near post to bring the two Palace sides level.
Less than 60 seconds later, Pat Healey lofted a perfect cross over from the right to Seabrook at the far post. The rookie striker made room for himself behind Nathaniel Clyne and Jose Fonte, and sent a header back across goal, stranding Speroni. As if in slow-motion, the ball bounced off the outside of the far post and away, and a golden opportunity for a swift reversal was lost.
In the 20th minute Palace UK thought they'd regained the lead, but Neil Danns' headed goal from Alan Lee's cross was disallowed for offside.
On 26 minutes, Ambrose and Sears linked up well to earn the first corner of the match. The kick was wasted by Ambrose as he sent it beyond everyone to the far touch-line. Clint Hill eventually gathered and lofted a nice ball towards the middle of the box where Lee headed to the far post but Rowland got across and down well to push it past the post.
Just after half an hour, Bryan Harkin played a short free-kick 10 yards inside the UK half to Paul Robson who surprised everyone with a 30-yard effort that Speroni could only tip over the bar.
In the 38th minute, there was a hint of offside as goalscorer Lee fed Sears on the right wing. The young loanee from West Ham whipped in a first time cross but nowhere near his teammates. Baltimore right back Flores had plenty of time and space to clear but somehow managed to send a perfect volley past his own 'keeper to hand the lead back to the visitors.
With five minutes left in the half, Darren Ambrose had the UK's next best chance with a 25-yarder that Rowland plucked out of the air diving to his left. In the final minute, Jose Fonte made a perfect slide tackle to dispossess Seabrook breaking into the area with just Speroni to beat.
After an evenly contested and lively first half, the teams went into the break with the score 2-1 in favour of the London side.
Warnock made no changes to his lineup for the second half, while Baltimore brought on Billy Chiles in goal and striker Machel Millwood in place of Dan Lader.
The Jamaican forward showed his skills early on, beating Paddy McCarthy with a trick move on the right touchline, then breaking into the box, only for a covering Clint Hill to slide in and clear. From the resulting corner, Stephen Basso at the near post headed on towards the far post where the ball was half cleared. Eventually it ended up back at the feet of Basso just yards out but his snap shot under pressure flew over the bar.
Eight minutes into the half, Darren Ambrose latched onto a weak clearance from Chiles in the Palace Baltimore net. He played a quick ball to Sears making a run into the box and the England U19 striker beat his marker to slot home at the far post, doubling his side's lead.
Palace Baltimore pulled one back in the 59th minute when Pat Healey picked up a loose ball deep in his own half and played a defence-splitting through ball to Seabrook who had timed his run perfectly. One-on-one with Flavahan in the UK goal, Seabrook kept his composure and slotted the ball under him to make it 3-2 to Palace UK.
On the hour mark, Warnock changed more than half his team, bringing on Matt Lawrence, Danny Butterfield, Nick Carle, Johnny Ertl, Kieron Cadogan and Sean Scannell.
Alessane N'Diaye came on soon after and he quickly made his presence felt. On 68 minutes, Ambrose again was the provider, laying the ball off to N'Diaye as they both sprinted towards the box. The young Frenchman feigned a touch then fired, testing Chiles low to his right, but the rookie Baltimore keeper blocked then gathered the loose ball with Cadogan bearing down.
Another four minutes and N'Diaye had put Palace back on top after a neat exchange with Ambrose that gave him plenty of room to beat Chiles at the far post, putting his side back in the driving seat at 4-2.
The London side then made their ninth and tenth substitutions with Lee Hills and James Comley entering the match. Only Paddy McCarthy played the full 90 minutes.
On 77 minutes, Flavahan had to be alert between the posts as defender Johnny Ertl nearly deflected a Millwood strike into his own net. Cadogan missed a decent chance for the British side at the other end a few minutes later, just failing to make proper contact seven yards out while being marked heavily by Flores.
Baltimore substitute Kevin Gnatiko showed his speed in the 85th minute when he beat his man in the box, took the ball to the byline and curled a cross to the far post where Millwood couldn't put his open header on target.
With two minutes left in normal time, another late substitute for the American side, Wale Adelusimi, made a critical tackle in the box on the lively N'Diaye.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added and just as they were about to expire, Scannell earned his team a free kick on the right. Nick Carle's curling delivery was met by Baltimore's luckless right back Flores who swung his left foot to try and clear, slicing the ball badly instead and scoring his second spectacular own-goal of the night. The final whistle blew seconds later and the London team had beaten their hosts 5-2.
Palace now head to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for their second match, this time against the Harrisburg City Islanders, kicking off at 7:05 pm at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
More information on that game can be found at http://www.lancasterbarnstormers.com or by calling (717) 509-4487.
Crystal Palace USA return to league action at 7:00pm on Saturday July 18th with a home clash against the Richmond Kickers.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit http://www.crystalpalaceusa.com or call 410.933.TEAM(8326).