By Andy Roberts/NPSL.com
The Crossfire Redmond players went through the wringer to travel most of the way across the country from Washington to Michigan for Saturday night’s NPSL national semifinal match, but they didn’t show any signs of jet lag in a dominant 3-0 win over the Muskegon Risers.
With the win, Redmond advanced to the national championship against FC Motown, 2-1 winners over Tulsa Athletic in the other semifinal.
The two teams battled evenly for over 20 minutes to start the game before Redmond got on the board first on a wicked shot from outside the box by Christian Soto. Still, with the Risers’ potent offensive attack, there was always the threat of an equalizer.
However, in the 36th minute, Omar Grey delivered a crucial blow for Redmond, knifing his way through several Risers defenders for an impressive individual goal that put his team up 2-0. From then on, the Redmond side played with more intensity and had control of the game.
“There’s always that point in time after you get a score, that all of a sudden for at least 10 minutes, your whole entire team is going to be fired up,” Grey said. “That was one of the things we wanted to play on, was to keep our energy and pressure up. Once that came on, it almost didn’t let off, and it led to just a flow of more attacks.”
Grey added that the Risers, whose Port City Supporters fan group created an atmosphere not always seen at the NPSL level, created a challenge for his team to match that energy level.
“We have to fire our own selves up in some way or some form to get the game going,” Grey said. “That’s just kind of the nature of our whole team. We’ve always been a team that’s going to continue to press forward and try to play out. They definitely made it a little challenging, and we had to figure out some stuff in the midfield that they did.”
Risers head coach Stu Collins felt like Grey’s goal actually ignited his team after what he felt was a sloppy start, and felt his team had it in them to launch a comeback after erasing a two-goal deficit in the previous weekend’s region semifinal game. However, Redmond was a cut above the teams that the Risers, who entered the match unbeaten for the season, had torn through in 2022.
“They’re probably the first team we’ve played that had players of our caliber,” Collins said. “They’re very fit, very athletic, and very direct effectively. We had no basis of dealing with that, so it caught us off guard to start the game.”
Redmond utilized their athletic advantages during the second half, which was arguably more one-sided than the first even though it contained fewer goals. The visitors sealed the win when River Stewart fired in a goal in the 77th minute, and keeper Bryce Logan made several good saves to earn his shutout in goal.
Redmond head coach Bill Colello said the performance was one of his team’s best and noted it was the first game where the entire roster was available all season.
“It’s just the way the ball bounces,” Colello said. “The (University of Washington) guys went on a trip to Scotland for part of the year, so we didn’t have any of those guys. The group is a very good group. They’re very athletic. All those guys will go to their college teams and be really good college players.”
Redmond’s cross-country chops will come in handy next weekend, because they’ll have to fly even farther to play in the national championship in Morristown, N.J. Colello joked that since his team doesn’t “get to fly like NFL teams do”, it will be all the more challenging. But his team showed Saturday night that nothing will keep them from playing their best game.
“The guys were really good tonight, and with all the stuff, all the travel, I’m pretty proud of them and the way they handled it,” Colello said. “It was a great game for us.”
Photo Credit: Chris Robotham/NPSL.com