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CROWD OF 7,533 TURNS OUT FOR NATIONAL SEMIFINAL

08/07/2017, 8:30am EDT
By Fletcher Sharpe/NPSL.com

Detroit City FC’s Cinderella run to the championship ends as Midland-Odessa FC, the South Region’s champion, defeated the Midwest Region champions Detroit City FC by way of penalty kicks 0-0 (4-2), in front of 7,533 spectators.

“This is an amazing feat for our club,” smiled Midland-Odessa coach Matt Barnes. “To come to one of the toughest places to play in the U.S. and win is an amazing feeling.”

Play started in the second minute when Midland’s All-Region midfielder Alex VonHolle directed a header towards the Detroit net, only for Fernando Piña to scoop it out of the air safely.

Four minutes later, Midland had another play through the middle as the speedster from Coastal Carolina, Darius Strambler, burst through the middle to lay off a ball to Isaac Sanchez. But Sanchez’s turn and shoot opportunity ended up in the parking lot.

Detroit’s first real opportunity came in the 15th minute as Penn State’s Jordan Tyler was sent on to Midland’s net, but VonHolle made an amazing sliding tackle to clean the ball out before clearing it himself. Soon after though, he was booked for a challenge on Detroit’s Bakie Goodman.

Midland almost broke the game open as Ricardo Palomino broke down the right sideline, and glided towards net. His shot was saved by Piña, but the rebound almost squirted in off of a City player before Omar Sinclair helped guide the ball out.

Detroit picked up their first yellow by way of Troy Watson in the 23rd minute, as the Saginaw Valley State product slammed into Strambler going for a jumping 50/50 ball.  Detroit would see another yellow about nine minute later on their captain, Dave Edwardson for grabbing a player on the run.

Detroit’s first shot came in the 38th as Sinclair laced a curling free kick over Midland-Odessa’s wall, but right to the keeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz.

Halftime seemed to flip a switch, as Detroit turned up the intensity on the visitors and spent much of the early second half imposing their will on the team.

“I don’t know if the players came out sluggish or not, but they woke up after halftime and applied pressure to Odessa,” said Detroit’s head coach Ben Pirmann.

Barnes agreed.

“I feel we won the first half, but they won the second half and overtime.”

Midland had another chance go wavering as Memo Diaz whipped a cross into the Detroit box that met the forehead of Strambler. Piña was ready however, and pushed the ball over the back of the net.

Detroit received their third yellow in the 65th as Sinclair went to clear a ball and accidentally struck Midland’s Sanchez in the face. Sanchez would eventually walk off the field on his own power and return, however.

Midland tried for one last shot on goal as VonHolle flicked a shot off of a botched corner, but Piña was again there to scoop it up for Detroit.  The match would go on to extra time as no change to the 0-0 scoreline could be found.

Fans of soccer were treated to a surprise as one of Michigan’s greatest soccer players, Greg Janicki subbed on for City, along with Zach Schwee to start the extra period.

Midland-Odessa needed two goal line clearances to preserve their lead in the first extra time period, before Memo Diaz picked up a yellow card for taking out Cyrus Saydee.

In the 115th minute, City appeared to have won the game, as Cyrus Saydee’s cross was slammed off the cross bar and landed just in front of the goal line before being hoofed clear.

In the penalties, Midland shot first. Alvaro Rubio went right, and Piña went left to make it 1-0 to Midland-Odessa. Detroit’s Roddy Green followed with a stutter step effort that was saved by Lineres-Ortiz. Midland’s captain Moulin was next and his effort beat the outstretched hands of Piña to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

City’s Shawn Lawson nailed his first penalty of the playoffs as he stuck it by Linares-Ortiz to make it 2-1 in favor of Midland. Isaac Sanchez sent Piña the wrong way to widen the margin again to 3-1. Maurico Castorino, a late sub for City, was stonewalled by Linares-Ortiz to keep the score intact.

With a chance to win it, Midland’s Jamie O’Grady beat Piña, but crushed his shot off the crossbar, leaving the door open for a City comeback. Detroit responded with Stephen Carroll crushed a penalty high and right to make it 3-2 to Midland.

But when it came down to it, Midland but their best player on for the final attempt and Alex VonHolle beat Piña to the bottom left corner to win the match for Midland.

“It’s really disappointing to lose this way,” said Pirmann. “But you have to give credit to the players to play through. That’s who deserves the praise. We had a couple go off the post late, but the players played through it.”

Midland’s Barnes was very pleased with his team’s performance.

“Since the NPSL/NCAA cut off, we’ve lost 14 rotation players, so it has been tough, but to get to a semifinal in back-to-back years is a testament to this program. We had a tactic to just press City early and eventually they caught on and the game got really good.”

With the result in the other side of the bracket, Midland-Odessa will now travel to New Haven, Connecticut to take on the Elm City Express of the Northeast Region, who defeated the West Region champions CD Aguiluchos USA 2-0 in the other national semifinal.

Photo Credit: Fletcher Sharpe/NPSL.com

Tag(s): The NPSL  MEDIA