By Matt Reed/NPSL.com
Winning a title is one thing, but completing the task on your home turf makes it that much sweeter. That’s what FC Motown experienced on Saturday night when they won their first NPSL Championship after topping Crossfire Redmond, 4-3, at Montclair State University.
A packed crowd of 2,065 fans witnessed a heart-wrenching final sequence of events that saw Handy Coby Jean Rodriguez deliver several moments of heroics for the home side.
Rodriguez leveled the match 10 minutes before stoppage time in eerily similar fashion to his goal that he scored in the national semifinals against Tulsa Athletic.
Then, the speedy attacker scored his second of the match after rounding the Crossfire goalkeeper near the halfway line to secure the championship for Motown.
“I’m so proud of my team and how we fought just to get to this match,” Rodriguez said. “We never got down on ourselves even when things got tough. We have a lot of fight in our squad, and that’s how we’ve been able to play all season.”
The championship final saw several lead changes, and after a fiery response from Crossfire after going down 2-0 early, Motown was forced to find its resiliency on multiple occasions.
Scott Menzies capped off a massive turnaround by Crossfire in the early stages of the second half. His side scored three unanswered goals on Saturday night, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
Crossfire had made it a theme of the postseason traveling across the country and taking down everyone in their path. In the national semifinals, the Washington club comfortably took down Michigan’s Muskegon Risers with a 3-0 victory.
Saturday posed a different challenge for the West Coast side after taking on a resilient Motown team that simply wouldn’t go away despite falling behind in the latter stages of the match.
“This win means a lot to me and this club, “ Motown head coach Gideon Baah said. “We were tested throughout the match.”
A frantic start to the evening saw Motown take the lead after eight minutes when a misplayed ball at the back gave Ryan Peterson a clear path to goal and the striker buried his opportunity.
The hosts doubled their lead just before the half-hour mark when Joe Holland picked out Franco Catania, who calmly finished for the 2-0 advantage.
That’s when the match began to shift though in favor of the visitors, and Crossfire made the most of their opportunities heading into the halftime break.
Christian Soto Rincon capped off his NPSL Golden Ball-winning season with another moment of brilliance in the second half when he halved the deficit to close out the first half. Soto Rincon built on his already impressive season with his third goal of the campaign.
Two minutes later, Hamza Haddadi’s diving header leveled the game before halftime.
“I told these guys at halftime even if we trailed we’d win this game,” Baah said. “We did it last week against Tulsa, and that’s just the belief I have in this squad. It’s all about belief and grinding through tough situations, and we were able to do that tonight.”
That dramatic 2-1 win over Tulsa Athletic last weekend afforded Motown the opportunity to host the final on Saturday night, a chance the club has been waiting for since their first finals appearance back in 2018.
The New Jersey side dramatically fell that year at Drew University, 3-1, against Miami FC 2, but 2022 gave the club renewed energy to lift the NPSL Championship trophy.
FC Motown finished the regular season 7-1-2 before taking out several of the East Region’s best sides, including Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals, West Chester United SC, the New York Shockers, and Appalachian FC.
Now, Motown can say they’re not only the best club on the East Coast, but also the top side in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).
Photo Credit: Vinny Carchietta/NPSL.com