Friday, July 30, 2010

NPSL Semifinal Recaps

FC Sonic 1:4 Sacramento Gold

After taking a lead in the 72nd minute on a Cody Altinini goal, Northeast Region Champion FC Sonic gave up four goals in the final 18 minutes to fall to the Sacramento Gold FC in the first match of the NPSL semifinals Thursday night. 

The Altinini goal woke up the game that had been a bit listless in the first 70 minutes.  West Region Champion Sacramento pushed into the attack in an effort to equalized and found paydirt when Manolo Pina's cross was mishandled by FC Sonic goalkeeper Sam Bishop.  Bishop's attempt to clear was slapped down off off his own defender AJ Barnhold's leg and into his the net.

Minutes later Sacramento scored two goals that would not be mislabeled as "golasos".  Hector Bermudez created some space at the top of the penalty area and rifled a left-footed curling shot into the far side of the net.   As FC Sonic switched into full attack mode in an attempt to save their season, Sacramento struck again.

This time it was the NPSL's leading goal scorer, Manolo Pina, who made an impressive solo run down the right side of the field.  As he rounded the final defender and charged into the penalty area at a tight angle, Pina showed why he's had such success this season.  Seeing that he had no help, he slapped a low drive with the outside of his right foot that eluded Bishop and nestled into the far post to ice the match.

Sacramento substitute Chris Akwaja added an empty netter deep into injury time for the final scoreline of 4:1.

Chattanooga FC 2:0 Madison 56ers

Southeast Region Champion Chattanooga FC has given up the fewest goals of any team in the NPSL this year and it was their stellar defense that led them to their 2:0 victory over the Midwest Region Champion Madison 56ers in the second NPSL semifinal on Thursday night.

Centerback Thomas Clark provided the difference on both sides of the field as he headed home the game winning goal from a corner kick in the 51st minute.  Clark was making his first start in the place of CFC captain Russell Courtney, who went down to a knee injury in last Saturday's friendly against DC Untied's Super-20 team.

Madison looked dangerous in the midfield, but were only able to break through the CFC defense on a single occasion.  Minutes after CFC's goal, 56er's forward Henry Aiyenero found himself with a free header from 8 yards.  Aiyenero powered his shot toward the corner, only to have it palmed away by Richard Masters in goal for CFC.

Madison continued to pressure the CFC defense but were consistently denied by timely tackles from Clark and fellow center back Andy Stewart.  As Madison threw numbers forward, CFC sealed the match in the 85th minute on a beautifully executed counter attack goal.  Substitute Sasha Viatrov found himself breaking down the left side with fellow substitute Robbie Hill streaking across the field on a 70 yard run from inside his own half.  Viatrov played a brilliant cross that left only Hill with a chance to play the ball, and Hill did not leave any doubt as he redirected the ball back against the grain and into the 56er's net.

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