By Favian Renkel/NPSL.com
The 2023 NPSL West Region Final between El Farolito and Crossfire Red was an exciting encounter with just about everything. The match took place at the historic Kezar Stadium, and the home crowd was treated to a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the game.
The first 10 minutes saw both teams engaging in a back-and-forth battle, but neither side could create a clear-cut opportunity to break the deadlock. However, it was Crossfire Red who emerged as the better offensive side in the opening 20 minutes. Despite their dominance, they struggled to capitalize on their chances, leaving the scoreline level.
On the other hand, El Farolito was trying to exploit Crossfire’s attacking intent by playing on the counter, but their approach lacked precision and ended up fruitless.
In the 24th minute, Dembor Benson changed the complexion of the game when he calmly slotted home a one-on-one chance, giving El Farolito the 1-0 lead. The goal ignited the atmosphere at Kezar Stadium, and the home fans’ fervor reached its peak.
Crossfire continued to pile on the pressure, bombarding El Farolito’s defense with shots, but their finishing lacked the required clinical touch. As the first half came to a close, Crossfire’s frustrations grew further when Richard Aman managed to find the back of the net, only to be ruled offside.
Halftime arrived with El Farolito holding a slender 1-0 lead, and the momentum seemed to be slightly in their favor. However, at the start of the second half, Crossfire showed determination and earned a corner kick, narrowly missing an “Olimpico”.
In the 60th minute, Johnatan Mosquera powered a header into the net, extending El Farolito’s lead to 2-0. The home crowd erupted in joy, sensing a victory on the horizon.
As the match progressed, El Farolito dominated possession, showcasing their superiority in the midfield. With 10 minutes remaining, fatigue started to set in for the home side, raising doubts about whether they could hold on to their 2-0 lead.
In the 88th minute, Crossfire finally found their breakthrough, pulling one back thanks to Kalani Kossa-Rienzi. Crossfire would level the scoreline at 2-2 two minutes later with a goal from Hamza Haddadi, and their hopes were truly revitalized. The entire crowd at Kezar stadium went silent as you could only hear the cheers of all the Crossfire players and coaches.
With neither team able to break the deadlock during regulation time, the match headed into extra time. El Farolito had two promising chances to snatch a win, but they failed to capitalize.
In the 108th minute, Kossa-Rienzi stepped up for Crossfire and unleashed a sensational shot that found the back of the net, putting his team ahead 3-2.
In the dying moments of the match, El Farolito’s goalkeeper produced three outstanding saves to keep his team in contention.
The atmosphere at Kezar Stadium was ferocious as the match reached its conclusion.
Despite being down to 10 men after a red card was shown to Mansour Diop, Crossfire displayed immense determination and held on to their narrow lead.
At the whistle, Crossfire emerged victorious with a 3-2 scoreline, securing a hard-fought win.
Crossfire Red head coach Bill Colello shared his thoughts on winning the NPSL West Region Final.
“I feel great, we’re super excited,” Colello said. “This is where we kind of just need to be, so I’m super happy.
Colello also discussed the crowd and the intense atmosphere.
“I mean, the crowd was pretty loud, but it seems like they didn’t affect them at all,” Colello added. “They’re all pretty battle-hardened. Everybody’s played at a high level. I think they all are here for a reason, and they all know how to get it done. So I was pretty proud of them today about that.”
The match will be remembered for its intense crowd, long extra times, and the heroics of Kalani Kossa-Rienzi, who played a pivotal role in guiding Crossfire to the NPSL West Region title. Kossa-Rienzi’s incredible performance on the day earned him the title of the match’s MVP.
In glowing praise of the Berkley native and standout MVP of the match, Colello expressed his admiration. Colello lauded him as a fantastic player, with a touch of endearment when referring to him as a “great little player.”
However, there was also a tinge of bitter-sweetness in Colello’s words, acknowledging the reality of Kossa-Rienzi’s potential departure. Recognizing the young player’s immense talent, Colello hinted at the possibility of Koasa-Rienzi making a move to MLS. It’s evident that the coach holds him in high regard and appreciates his contributions to the team, even if it might be for a limited time as he moves on to pursue new heights.
Kossa-Rienzi shared his thoughts on the win.
“I mean team effort all around, all of us contributed,” Kossa-Rienzi said. “Going down 2-0 is never fun, but it’s a dangerous score in soccer, so we’re happy to do it, and we believed the whole time. I think we came into the game, second half, we knew we were winning, regardless of what happened.”
As a University of Washington player, Kossa-Rienzi’s performance in the NPSL National Semifinals and potentially the National Championship will be crucial for Crossfire’s chances of lifting the National Championship trophy this year. If he can replicate the impact he had in the previous match versus El Farolito, his skills, and contributions could play a significant role in guiding the team to further success in the tournament.
Crossfire Red’s next challenge awaits them in the 2023 NPSL National Semifinals, set to take place on July 29. They will face off against the formidable #2 seed Tulsa Athletic in what promises to be an intense matchup. As the #3 seed, Crossfire will look to build on their triumphant victory in the NPSL West Region Final.
Photo Credit: Favian Renkel/NPSL.com