AFC Cleveland claimed the 2016 NPSL National Championship Powered by Mitre with a 4-2 win over the visiting Sonoma County Sol FC. The match took place in front of a sellout crowd of 2,205 at Stan Skoczen Stadium in Independence, Ohio.
“It’s good for the soccer community,” AFC Cleveland midfielder Tom Beck commented. “It’s good for everyone up here that loves soccer. It’s important that we continue to grow the game and hopefully AFC Cleveland can do that in the future.”
Sonoma County’s Taylor Varnadore opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Player of the Match and AFC Cleveland veteran forward Vinny Bell would even things up at 1-1 in the 32nd minute with a great solo effort.
Halftime would come with no change to the score, but the second half would see a flurry of goals as the game opened up.
Varnadore would get his second goal in the 59th, putting the Sol up 2-1. Bell would follow with another goal five minutes later, bringing the score even again at 2-2.
Antonio Manfut would give Cleveland a 3-2 edge and their first lead of the game in the 87th minute. Ryder Bell would follow that with a goal in stoppage time, giving the Royals the 4-2 win and their first national title.
“It’s the summer of Cleveland,” Bell added. “We’ve had a lot of championships this summer. After five years I’m glad we could bring a championship home for 6th City, Terry, and all the guys I have been playing with. It feels great.”
This was Sonoma County’s fourth appearance in a national title game. The Sol last won the NPSL National Championship in 2009.