Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jacksonville United Captures 2011 NPSL Championship

In a thrilling final, first year side Jacksonville United FC complete the incredible midseason turnaround to take home the NPSL Championship with a 3:2 win over Hollywood United.  After losing its first four matches, JUFC turned the results around and rode three goals in Saturday's final from Tommy Krizanovic to finish its season with 8 straight wins and raise the NPSL Championship trophy. 
Krizanovic opened the Jacksonville scoring in the 16th minute with a left-footed 15 yard drive across the width of the Hollywood goal before settling just inside the far post.  Hollywood responded shortly thereafter when Arturo Albarran cheekily swivle kicked a cross to the head of Emmanuel Bentil.  Bentil's downward header was knocked down by a Jacksonville defender's arm and the referee pointed to the spot.  However, Hollywood would fail to convert the spot kick, when Albarran crashed his attempt off the crossbar. 

Albarran would make up for that mistake with a wonder goal just minutes later.  After receiving the ball in space about 30 yards from goal, Albarran laced into a curling drive that swerved into the far side netting and equalized the match.  But it would only take 11 minutes for Jacksonville to retake the lead when Ramak Safin found Krizanovic for the finish in the 37th.  The 2:1 scoreline would be taken into halftime.

After the break, Hollywood implemented its possession oriented game, and patiently probed the Jacksonville defense with good work from Nick Blanco and Jose Miranda coming close several times but unable unlock the Jacksonville defense.  In the 76th minute, the breakthrough came when substitute Brent Whitfield broke into the penalty area and was taken down for a penalty.  Albarran showed real moxie to step up and atone for his previous miss by slamming home his second penalty attempt of the night to level the score.

Hollywood continued the persistent pressure while looking for the winning goal, but in the 88th minute it was Jacksonville who struck against the run of play.  Despite being outnumbered in the Hollywood penalty area, Ramak Safi danced to the endline and sent in a cross for Krizanovic to head home and spark jubilant celebration for the Jacksonville faithful. 

After 4 minutes of desperate attacking from Hollywood in an attempt at a third equalizer, the referee  blew full time and Jacksonville United captured the 2011 NPSL Championship.

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