By Michael Koenig/NPSL.com
After 120 minutes of late goals and dramatic saves, Crossfire Redmond grabbed the NPSL’s West Region Championship with a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over host El Farolito. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
There was no scoring until the 50th minute, when a Farolito attacker was taken down in the box from behind. Ricardo Delgado scored on the subsequent penalty kick. But Nathaniel Jones evened up the match for Crossfire just seven minutes later.
The host side was seemingly on its way to victory when the NPSL’s second leading scorer, Erik Arias, scored in the 89th minute to give Farolito a 2-1 lead. The goal was the result of a turnover by goalkeeper Jackson Ozburn, whose goal kick went straight to Farolito’s Dembor Benson.
Arias left the match less than a minute later, when the ball hit him in the face, but he did not appear to be seriously injured. And Crossfire came roaring back again, when Camron Miller grabbed a loose ball in the box and knotted up the match in the fifth minute of stoppage time to force a 30-minute extra session.
Both clubs pushed forward, hoping to avoid the uncertainties of a penalty shootout, but neither was able to score until a penalty kick gave Crossfire the chance to take the lead with only five minutes remaining. Crossfire’s Munier Hussen stepped up to take the kick, but goalkeeper Johan Lizarralde deflected it away, and a subsequent rebound went over the crossbar.
Lizarralde’s effort seemed to re-energize Farolito’s players, and they created a couple of chances in the final moments before the whistle, but Benson’s header went wide and Ignacio Torres’s shot sailed over the bar.
And so the match proceeded to penalty kicks. Cody Buchanan converted the first kick for Crossfire. Lizarralde stepped up to take the first for Farolito, and his shot went wide.
Ozburn said was surprised to see the opposing goalkeeper taking a penalty so early in the shootout.
“Oh yeah,” Ozburn said. “For sure. Once [Buchanan] shot the first one I kept looking down to the other team, I was like who’s taking it, the other goalie’s taking it. He shanked it. So that was lucky for us.”
Crossfire’s Michael Gallagher and Farolito’s Torres made their kicks. But Lizarralde stopped Christian Soto Rincon to give his squad a chance to even up the shootout. Ozburn responded by stopping the next shot from Sergio Martinez.
“I saw his run up was a little wider than usual and he looked one way,” Ozburn said. “So I dove the other way and saved it.”
It was the final save of the penalty shootout. Crossfire’s Hussen, Farolito’s Omar Santos, and Crossfire’s Scott Menzies all converted their kicks, sealing the match for the visitors from the suburbs of Seattle.
Ozburn will soon be leaving Crossfire to play for the University of Washington, while Farolito’s players and coaches are left to reflect on a successful season that fell just short of reaching the national semifinals.
“The other team was good,” El Farolito forward Jehimy Arias said. “They’re very physical. We had chances; luck just wasn’t on our side this time.”
Farolito’s Santiago Lopez also reflected on his team’s season.
“I’m very proud of the group,” Lopez said. “The partnership, the friendships, everything was incredible, and they ended up creating a very good group inside and outside the field. It was just unfortunate in PKs. It’s always tough. But I still believe that in PKs you put your [best] strategy into it, and we just didn’t put the ball in.”
Meanwhile Crossfire’s Gallagher celebrated his team’s victory, as his team prepares to move on.
“So [I’m] obviously feeling great, right?” Gallagher said. “We obviously faced a little bit of adversity, it was a fun atmosphere today, which I think is the most important [thing] and that’s what we live for as players. And obviously we came out on the other end winning, and there’s nothing better.”
Photo Credit: Nap Badillo/NPSL.com