By Denton Diablos FC
In front of just under 1,000 vocal Diablos fans, the Denton Diablos scored four unanswered goals to overcome an early 2-0 deficit in the NPSL West Region Final in Denton, Texas on Saturday night.
The match kicked off at 7:30 CST and despite three early corners and nearly 100% of early possession, the visiting FC Golden State Force were the first to mark a tally on the board, when in the sixth minute their counter attack broke through the Diablos back line and put FC Golden State up 1-0 early.
Again, the Diablos enjoyed most of the possession and looked dangerous on several opportunities, when lightning struck twice, and against the run of play, and again on a counter attack, FC Golden State found themselves with time and space inside the box. After Carlos Enriquez made a terrific first save, there was a cleared ball that was pounced on by the Force who stamped their control on the game with a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
While FC Golden State was content to take their 2-0 lead into halftime, the Diablos had different plans. Making the most of every second of the four minutes of stoppage time, Trevor Amann finally connected on the end of a Brandon Cerda corner kick, the seventh of the first half, and cut the Golden State lead in half, 2-1, as the final whistle was blown on the first half as the ensuing kickoff took place.
FC Golden State would come out and dominate possession in the second half, through the 75th minute. After some strategic substitutions by head coach Ramon Raya, the Diablos started to create more opportunities. In the 77th minute a Carlos Flores corner was sent to Cerda, who served in a whipped ball that was headed on by James Doyle and bicycled by Oscar Romero. The Golden State goalkeeper made an amazing save, only to have Amann smash home the rebound, equalizing the game, and securing his brace.
As dreams of extra time and penalty kicks started to whirl around the Diablos faithful’s heads, the boys in red and black had other thoughts. Smothering possession, feeding off the chants, drums, and banging of the Harbingers, the Diablos Supporters group, the Diablos wasted no time capitalizing on the shift in momentum. In the 80th minute, Romero intercepted a Golden State pass on the edge of the box, quickly connected with Julian Barajas whose flick over the Golden State line found an onrushing Flores, who slipped it back across the box. Romero then hit a shot on target, which yet again, Amann found himself in the right place at the right time and cleaned up the Golden State defensive mess. This snatched the lead from FC Golden State for the first time all game, and illuminated the scoreboard with a 3-2 Diablos lead.
But like so many times this season, the Diablos were not finished. While others would be content to draw out the clock, possess in the back and hold in the corner, not the Denton Diablos. Romero was yet again integral in the buildup, finding time and space down the left hand side deep in the Golden State defensive third, before rocketing a switch across the field to a wide-open Cerda. With an excellent first touch, Cerda found a streaking Amann who slotted home the ball to the edge of the six-yard box where a cutting Julian Barajas slammed home the nail in the proverbial coffin of Golden State.
With just over five minutes of stoppage time to get through, the final minutes were tense, until after 51 minutes of second-half soccer, the final whistle blew, and the little club from Denton hoisted their first-ever NPSL West Region Championship trophy, earning themselves a birth in the NPSL national semifinals. The Man of the Match was Amann who netted himself a hat trick and an assist.
The Denton Diablos will learn who they face in the next round of the playoffs when the regional championships conclude for the East, South, and Midwest Regions on Sunday, July 25th.
Photo Credit: Daniel McCullough