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07 / 05

Cunningham’s Hat Trick Leads United to Victory over Cincinnati Saints

WRITTEN BY: Jeremy Sampson
PUBLISHED ON: July 05, 2014

With leading scorer Matt Brown sitting out due to a red card last weekend, Brian Cunningham stepped up in his place.

Cunningham scored three times in the first half, as Lansing United defeated the Cincinnati Saints, 4-1.

“I approached this game just like every other game,” Cunningham, who scored for the fist time in a United jersey, said. “It got the monkey off my back. I scored a goal and I was like ‘wow, it feels good.’”

Cunningham also served as the captain for United in Brown’s absence.

“From last week, we started talking about somebody stepping in, not just in the captaincy, but overall,” Cunningham said. “I’m honored that coach picked me to be the captain and I was grateful for the opportunity.”

Leading 3-0 at the half, United gave up a goal in the 75’ as Saints forward Andre Sharp beat United keeper Ian McDonald-Wilkins from just outside the box, but Greg Timmer responded and scored an unassisted goal in the 80’ minute to maintain the three goal margin.

“Points are huge,” Head Coach Eric Rudland said. “Every game, maximum points are what we talked about. To be at home and get the result is big.”

The win was revenge for the team’s previous meeting, as United dropped a hard fought game 3-2 on the road to the Saints last month.

“When we went down there, it was the backend of basically four weekends where we had played two matches every weekend,” Rudland said. “We were coming off that Cleveland game where it felt like a loss giving up that last goal to draw.’

“I think the mentality of the group tonight was fantastic,” Rudland said. “We came in with a lot of confidence playing at home.”

United had two new faces in the lineup Friday, as McDonald-Wilkins started in place of Zach Bennett in goal and Jake Prud’homme filled in at left back. Rudland praised the two, who play together collegiately at the University of Detroit-Mercy, after the win, saying both played well.

United got another big boost, as centre-back Ben Lamb was back in the lineup after some time out with an injury. Rudland credited him with bringing a lot of leadership to the team.

The win has United sitting atop the Great Lakes West Conference table, tied with the Indiana Fire at 21 points. The team will head to Dearborn on Sunday to play the Michigan Stars before returning home to square off against Indiana and Detroit City to finish out the season next weekend.

“We are looking at the next match, one game at a time,” Rudland said. “We are focused on Sunday and then obviously we need to put together some detailed game plans going into next weekend against teams we have faced before.”

“We’ve got to keep going, keep our foot on the gas and finish out the season strong,” Cunningham said. “We’ve just got to control the controllables and we’ll have some success and hopefully go to the playoffs.”