Cleveland SC Defeats Med City FC 2-0 to Advance to Sunday’s Midwest Region Final
By Steve Gunn/NPSL.com
Cleveland SC has one big advantage in this year’s NPSL Midwest Region playoffs.
Extreme motivation. Because they’ve yet to finish what they started.
Cleveland has won the region title for two seasons in a row – 2019 and 2021 (there was no play in 2020 due to COVID) – but the team went on to lose both times in the national semifinals.
Now the Ohio squad is determined to make the third try a charm, and they started down that path in good form on Friday, beating Med City FC, the North Conference champion, 2-0 in the region semifinals at Oakridge High School in Muskegon, Michigan.
Cleveland will now face the host Muskegon Risers on Sunday at 3:00 pm in the region championship game.
Cleveland Coach Vlad Muresan, in his first year with the team, says his roster has a core of players who have been around for multiple seasons, and he senses how much they want to return to finish the job.
He also believes they have the talent and character to pull off a national title.
“The majority of players are back on the team, and having players with experience, know-how, character and big hearts makes my job a lot easier,” Muresan said. “This core group has been around for three or four years, and they’ve played in big games.
“We’re going to have to have a quick recovery, because we play again in less than 48 hours,” Muresan added. “It’s not going to be easy, but we believe in ourselves, believe in our destiny, and we are very, very confident.”
Cleveland, which won the Rust Belt Conference title in the regular season, had to work hard in the first half to keep Med City off the board.
Med City had a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal and kept the pressure on. Only a series of strong saves by Cleveland goalkeeper Conor Cable kept the shutout intact through the first 45 minutes.
Cleveland got the only goal of the first half literally by accident when the ball bounced around the Med City goal and was inadvertently knocked in by a defender.
Cleveland’s final goal came about 10 minutes into the second half when Alec Nagucki received a corner kick in front of the goal and popped it in, making the score 2-0.
“It came right to me and I hit it as hard as I could and luckily it went in,” Nagucki said.
Nagucki, a longtime member of the team, said winning a national championship has been Cleveland’s goal all season, and he and his teammates are determined to stay alive in the tournament.
“We want to finally break through and win it all this year,” he said.
Cleveland had several other great scoring chances in the second half, but was stopped several times by Med City goalkeeper Iker Gonzales.
Cleveland nailed down the win in the second half with air-tight defense, keeping Med City from getting a shot on goal until the 85th minute of the game.
The winners had a 5-1 shot advantage in the second half.
“We made some adjustments in the second half,” Muresan concluded. “The four defenders and our keeper were amazing. The midfielders helped a lot, as well.”
Med City finished the season with an 11-2-2 record.
“They were pretty well organized, and honestly I felt we weren’t good enough in the final third (of the offensive zone),” said Med City head coach Neil Cassidy. “We also gave up two sloppy goals. If you’re not competitive on your own end of the field you’re not going to win the game.
“But we had a great year,” Cassidy noted. “We were conference champions, and we will be back next year.”
Photo Credit: Chris Robotham/NPSL.com