By Scott Wegener/NPSL.com
The 2021 NPSL National Championship was everything the fans could have expected and more. It had thrilling goals, tough tackles, and incredible saves. In the end it was Denton Diablos FC, in front of 2,394 fans, in just their second NPSL season, defeating Tulsa Athletic and taking home the championship trophy.
Early in this it looked to be all Diablos as it was Anthony Powell getting the Diablos on the board in just the third minute courtesy of a Carlos Flores assist. Powell would receive the pass and hit it on his first touch and watch it go through Tulsa goalkeeper Bryson Reed’s hands to put the Diablos up 1-0. Just four minutes later the Diablos would earn a corner and it was Brandon Cerda with a perfect pass to find Diablos captain Eoin Wearen’s head as he buried it in the upper corner for his fourth goal of the season.
Tulsa wasn’t going to go down without a fight. This time it was Athletic captain Joe Garcia with a finish past Diablos goalkeeper Carlos Enriquez in the 19th minute. Just six minutes later Garcia would take a free kick from 40 yards out on the left sideline and bend it into the box. With Tulsa forward Jonathan Harris making a run it froze Enriquez and the Garcia cross bounced in the box and in to tie things up 2-2.
The Diablos had to be thinking this was a bit of déjà vu as they had the exact same set of events happen in their semifinal matchup against Cleveland SC. They would turn the tide in the 39th minute as Flores would find Trevor Amann who would bury his 10th goal of the NPSL playoffs to give the Diablos a 3-2 lead going into the break.
The second half seemed to have both teams settle in a bit and both offenses stalled coming out of the locker room. Play would go back and forth with neither team creating any real opportunities.
Finally, in the 78th minute the Diablos would break through, and get a bit of fortune, as Amann was on a breakaway Reed would come out and make a save only to have the deflected save go off defender Vinicius Oliveira and trickle in for an own goal.
Tulsa would have breakthrough moments but just weren’t able to find the net.
“We just weren’t able to step up and play like we did all year, and it wasn’t for a lack of effort, the team just seemed nervous,” Tulsa Athletic head coach Levi Coleman said.
It would be Amann just five minutes later, picking up his 11th goal of the playoffs off a through ball played by James Doyle. Amann, once again, had a one-on-one with Reed but this time he would slot it just to the keeper’s right to put the Diablos ahead 5-2 and finish off the 2021 NPSL season.
“These guys deserve everything,” Diablos head coach Ramon Raya said. “They have been working hard since day 1, an amazing work ethic. I’m just so proud.”
It was Amann who was named NPSL National Championship Man of the Match with his pair of goals, and really it was man of the playoffs with a staggering 11 goals in just five games.
What started with over 90 teams, scattered all over the country, ended with an NPSL Championship for Denton Diablos FC.
Photo Credit: Ross James/NPSL.com