US Club Soccer NPL Finals: Title deciders
GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Sockers FC found itself in another penalty-kick shootout Monday.
This time, things didn't go their way, as BW Gottschee edged Sockers FC 5-3 in penalty kicks to win the U15 boys championship in the National Premier Leagues Finals at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex.
After battling to a 1-1 tie through regulation play and overtime, BW Gottschee keeper Xavier Gomez came up with a save on Sockers FC's second penalty kick, while his teammates went 5-for-5 on their kicks to win their first NPL Finals title.
BW Gottschee – No. 2 in the nation among U15 teams in the TopDrawerSoccer.com rankings – outscored its opponents 11-2 in round-robin play. They advanced to the final by downing Brentwood NPL-98 4-2 in the semifinals.
Sockers FC, the wild-card qualifier into the semifinals, advanced to Monday's championship match with another penalty-kick shootout, going 20 players deep before beating FC Dallas Academy 9-8.
“Those guys are from our region,” BC Gottschee head coach Dennis McGowan said of Sockers FC. “They're very well organized and strong, and very, very disciplined. They had players behind the ball, and fought us for every square inch.
“We knew the type of team they were. They're completely different than us, but very good at how they want to do things.”
Yet Monday's match nearly didn't get into bonus play. After a scoreless first half, Sockers FC broke the stalemate at the 51st minute when defender Connor Olson punched a corner kick past Gomez for a 1-0 lead.
But BW Gottschee forced the match into overtime at the 73rd minute when Matthew Smith-Swain got his foot on a corner kick and directed it past Sockers FC keeper Alexander Ruckstaetter.
In the penalty-kick shootout, BW Gottschee's Benjamin Issroff made his shot, then watches as Gomez made the stop on Kevin Proudfoot, Sockers FC's leadoff kicker, to give his team the advantage.
Conor McGlynn, Sean McGowan and Smith-Swain all made their penalty kicks for BW Gottschee, while Jarod Petrovic, Lucas Geib and Jack Bessey made their kicks for Sockers FC.
That gave BW Gottschee a 4-3 advantage with their final player, Dylan Nealis, coming up. Nealis connected just off the crossbar and over the hands of Ruckstaetter to end the match.
“At that point, we had played a terrific game of soccer,” McGowan said. “We had broken them down enough times where we could've earned the win.
“PKs are a roll of the dice. I'm estatic we got the penalty scores, but I would've been estatic for their effort and type of soccer we played not just in the final, but in all five games.”
PDA Force NPL 1, New York Rush Patriots 0
Vanessa Kara's penalty-kick goal late in the second half lifted the Force to a victory over the defending NPL Finals U16s champions for their first NPL Finals title.
Kara's kick was set up when New York Rush's defense was called for a handball inside the penalty box. She then booted the penalty kick past Panthers keeper Sydney Wolin into the upper-right corner of the net.
“They're the defending NPL national champions, they've got real pedigree and we knew they had been in this spot before,” PDA head coach Jeremy Beardsley said. “At this level of competition, it's going to be a fight. We were expecting that.
“They have a pretty high-powered offense, and can score a lot of goals. But we haven't given up a goal in this tournament. It was our defensive organization against their attacking personalities. We're very pleased with how it turned out.”
PDA Force – behind keeper Imani Taylor – did not allow an opponent to score in five tournament matches, including Monday's championship. But that streak nearly ended early in the second half when New York Rush midfielder Heidi Druehl missed right from 12 yards out.
That seemed to take some of the wind out of the Patriots' sails, with the Force stepping up a gear on offense. PDA nearly scored its first goal just past the midway point of the half when Kara crossed to midfielder Sara McGlinn racing down the left side, but McGlinn's shot went wide right of the goal.
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