By Matthew DeWitt/NPSL.com
A dramatic, seven-round penalty shootout started Friday’s Midwest Region Semifinals, as Steel City FC converted six of its seven penalties to dispatch Med City FC 0(6)-0(5).
After a grueling 120 minutes that offered plenty of opportunities for both sides, neither team was able to find a foothold in the shootout until the last round. Starting with a miss from Steel City’s Nolan Hutter off the right post and a save from goalkeeper Garret Watson, Steel City and Med City went back-and-forth with conversions until Med City’s Matias Millard left his ultimately-decisive penalty high.
Steel City’s best chance to win the game in regulation came late in the second half. The Great Lakes Conference Champions had multiple instances of back-to-back corners, with one such instance requiring a save through traffic from Med City goalkeeper Iker Gonzalez. The other best chance for Steel City came in the 88th minute off a scramble in front of the goal that required multiple reaction saves from Gonzalez to get the game into extra time.
“I thought we were going to get one before the 90,” Steel City head coach Dan Brower said. “But not to be and we just had to grind it out really. Med City, they’re a good team, and they punched us a bit and we had to counterpunch.”
Med City’s Henry Tolbert had two self-made chances but couldn’t find the scoring touch. His first involved some clean footwork to weave through the Steel City penalty area, but his shot caromed off the underside of the crossbar and was ultimately cleared. The second most-promising opportunity came in the 72nd minute, when the forward was able to win the ball off Watson near midfield after the goalkeeper attempted to play a pass from the backline. Tolbert’s shot from the left wing into the open net skirted wide of the near post.
For as many chances created, both teams came into the mindset to congest the middle of the field.
“We’re adaptable – that’s the name of the game,” Brower said. “We knew Med City was going to come in kind of with a diamond four in the midfield, so wanted to invert a little bit and we wanted to get that plus one in the midfield. We did it in the beginning of the game but then we went away from it for a little bit and we lost our way.
For their efforts, Steel City earns a date in Saturday’s Final in Indianola against Tulsa Athletic.
Photo Credit: Doug Wells