First match: South 4, West 0
Second match: Midwest 2, Northeast 1
The National Premier Soccer League’s 2016 Player Combine featured round robin matches on Saturday at Lockhart Stadium. In the opening contest, the South defeated the West 4-0, while in the second game the Midwest topped the Northeast 2-1 to set up a rematch of last year’s title matchup.
The South and the Midwest teams will square off in the championship match on Sunday at 10 am ET. The Midwest is the defending champion. The West and Northeast will meet in the consolation match at noon ET.
In the day’s first match, it didn’t take the South team long to get on the board as Chattanooga FC French-born forward Leo De Smedt scored in the third minute from inside the box after quick attack.
De Smedt doubled the South’s lead in the 26th minute converting from the penalty spot after Jacquelin Prudhomme was taken down in the box. Prudhomme had a scoring opportunity of his own two minutes earlier, but his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Arturo Ornelas.
Prudhomme did get on the scoring sheet with two goals in the second half. The Haiti native, who plays for the Miami Fusion FC, made it 3-0 for the South in the 55th minute with a simple tap-in after De Smedt found him open in the middle from the right side.
The 21-year-old Prudhomme added his second goal in the 60th minute with a header from a cross by Ryan Sandidge.
Prudhomme also missed a chance in the opening attack of the second half when his shot from close range was denied by Ornelas.
The West team had a quality scoring chance in the 34th minute when Khalid Arramdani tested the South team and Chattanooga FC goalkeeper Gregory Hartley, who came out to close the angle and made the save.
Josue Araiza had one other opportunity for the West team in the second half in the 53rd minute when he was set up by Jose Avalos. Araiza’s shot was parried to the side by Hartley, who ended up with a clean sheet.
In the second game Saturday, the Midwest came out with a little more initiative and opened the scoring in the 9th minute through a penalty kick converted by Marcelo Petit of Lansing United. The Paraguayan beat goalkeeper Michael Bernardi to the left side.
Matthew Ferguson attempted a free kick for the Midwest in the third minute, his shot missing just over the crossbar.
Travis Pittman tried his luck with a free kick for the Northeast side in the 24th minutes, forcing goalkeeper Brenden Alfery of the Fort Pitt Regiment to make a diving save for a corner kick.
Sachem Wilson also came close to scoring for Northeast in the 37th minute when he charged from the left side and finished with a powerful shot that goalkeeper Alfery punched away for a corner kick.
Northeast tied the game in the 63rd minute as Ibrahim Diaby got on the end of a scramble in front of the goalmouth and pushed the ball in the net.
But the drama just turned on a few minutes thereafter when Northeast goalkeeper Bernardi took down Lawrence Talery just inside the area in the 70th minute. Bernardi makes up for his fault by saving the penalty kick from Andrew Ferguson.
However, Talery was taken down again inside the box, this time by a defender, and he took the responsibility of taking the penalty kick and made no mistake to give the Midwest the 2-1 victory.