Albion SC Pros defeated SoCal SC 3-1 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in the Southwest Conference NPSL playoffs Saturday night.
Albion finished their first year in the NPSL with an undefeated regular season record of 8-0-4, placing them first in their conference.
This playoff victory however, did not come very easily for them.
While Albion completely controlled the first half of the match, they were unable to find themselves a goal. It wasn’t until the 62nd minute for the first goal to be scored but from the opposing team, SoCal SC.
SoCal’s Max Rico scored a goal off of a short corner, which put the team up 1-0 in the second half. However, Albion continued to press looking for an equalizer.
Albion was saved in the 82nd minute when they found their game-tying goal. After a collision with SoCal’s keeper, Albion forward Matt Clare found the pop-out ball on the outside left and buried it for a beautiful goal. A goal he described “did not see coming.”
“I put myself in the corner and only had one or two options; either try and put it back post or curl it in,” Clare said. “So I curled it in.”
Both teams were unable to score another goal to end the game so next it went into overtime. Albion fans were constantly on their toes for these final two halves of extra time as Albion ended up playing down not just one, but two players.
A dangerous play late in the first overtime led to Albion’s Luis Cardona to be issued his second yellow of the match. Not long after, Albion’s Oscar Ortega struck a player in a late challenge and was issued an automatic red card, now leaving the team playing with only nine men.
Thankfully for Albion’s strong backline and keeper Jean Antoine, they were able to shut down SoCal’s offense, ultimately forcing them into penalty kicks.
“My backline is one of the best in the league,” Antoine said. “I have a feeling with these guys we will go all the way.”
As if Antoine hadn’t proven to be Man of the Match yet with saving critical shot after shot, he surely secured it in PK’s.
In the first round of kicks, both SoCal and Albion had not problem placing it in the back of the net. The next round, however, was just the beginning of Antoine’s outstanding PK performance.
As SoCal stepped up to take their second shot, Antoine guessed correctly and saved the shot. Shortly after Albion was able to score theirs now leading 2-1.
The next round Antoine showed the crowd he wasn’t done yet and saved another shot against him, this time guessing correctly the opposite direction. Albion again had no problem finishing their PK now leading 3-1.
There was only one word to describe Antoine in the final shot of penalty kicks and that was clutch. Antoine saved the fourth shot taken by SoCal which led the team to victory.
Antoine described penalty kicks as “easy” because “it’s just like practice.” He further explained that they don’t bring him nerves because of how often they practice them in training.
Albion SC Pros look to continue their undefeated year as they prep for their semifinal playoff match.
“We have a very resilient team,” Clare said. “A team with a lot of character and a team with a lot of pride.”