The Elm City Express defeated Legacy 76 4-0 on Saturday night at Reese Field to advance to the NPSL Northeast Region final. Coming off a convincing 2-0 win against TSF FC a week beforehand, the Express came into the game with an outstanding defensive record and high expectations for the conference semifinal matchup.
In the early stages of the game, Legacy 76 took command of the tempo and put the Express under considerable pressure. The Express grew into the game, however, and began to generate chances; in the 17th minute Shaquille Saunchez muscled past three defenders in the box, but his low cross was cleared by a Legacy 76 defender. In the 17th minute, the Express finally got the early breakthrough that it was looking for. Cristhian Hernández delivered a pinpoint cross on a corner kick that met the head of a leaping Saunchez in the center of the goal, who rocketed a header just under the crossbar. Soon after, the chances began to flow for the rejuvenated Express team: just minutes later, Lucas Gabriel’s delicate lob over the keeper floated over the crossbar in a near miss.
Legacy 76 recovered from their initial shock and grew into the game as time progressed. With threatening shots, deep throw-ins, and unlocking passes, they seemed to be knocking on the door for an equalizer. However, keeper Matt Jones and the Elm City defense dealt handily with the pressure.
“It’s the boys in front of me,” said the Express goalkeeper on the defensive success. “All I have to do is keep these guys organized, and they do the rest. We just don’t make mistakes, and that’s the reason we don’t concede many goals.”
With halftime approaching, Elm City came close to scoring a second goal as Lucas Gabriel Sousa hit the left post with a sizzling volley; the Express dominated possession but failed to finish any chances. At the half, Legacy 76 had only one shot, a testament to Elm City’s steadfast backline and tone-setting early goal.
Haley applauded the importance of a quick score. “An early goal really helps our rhythm, gives us some confidence, and lets us play more freely.”
Elm City came out of the break with high energy and never looked back. Haley admitted that in the second half the Express performed much better.
“We were dangerous, got ourselves some chances, and finished, which was nice.”
Just eight minutes into the half, a Cristhian Hernández free kick to the back post was cut back across the face of goal and finished with aplomb by Graciano Brito. In the 63rd minute, Tavoy Morgan was brought on for Hernández, who tallied two assists on the night. Just four minutes later, “The Bull” would get on the scoresheet. Saunchez brought the ball all the way down the field on a counterattack, but saw his low shot parried by the Legacy 76 keeper. However, Tavoy Morgan was on the spot to pick up the pieces and tuck the rebound into the bottom left corner. Morgan, still hungry for goals, shot high and wide in the 70th minute, and Saunchez sent a clever chip past the goalie but just wide of the left post.
In the 73rd minute, it was again “The Bull” who put the nail in the coffin. Morgan picked the ball up 30 yards out and flicked it over a defender, executed a clever one-two on the edge of the box with Lucas Gabriel Sousa, and finally “The Bull” finished it into the bottom right corner of the goal for his second score of the game. The Express saw the game out, dominating possession in the final stages and maintaining intensity at the back to deny Legacy 76 any chance of scoring.
“If we score a goal, we win the game, and that’s the same mindset we will take to the next round,” said goalie Matt Jones.
At the end of it all, Elm City emerged the victors and will advance to the next round of the playoffs.
“We want to be able to go score goals and pick up clean sheets; we feel that we’ll always be able to win with a shutout, and that’s what we did tonight,” said Haley on the decisive victory.
The Elm City Express continue their playoff run with the win and will advance to the Northeast Regional final. Congratulations to Legacy 76 on their successful regular season and postseason trip. Stay tuned for more playoff updates and match scheduling news.