The second place North County Battalion (7-2-2) and third place Deportivo Coras USA (7-3-1) met on a beautiful 80 degree Wednesday night in San Diego at Del Norte Stadium. This game was the most important game on the season for both teams as they battled for home field advantage in the first round of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) playoffs. The winner of this game would play host on July 9th.

The last time these two teams played (April 24th) no one came away with the victory; the final score was 1-1.

The NC Battalion would begin this game in second place by a single point, needing a draw or win to host Coras in the first round of the playoffs.

The game started off very quickly as Coras earned the game’s first corner kick just two minutes into the game, but they were unable to convert. About two minutes later NC Battalion earned their first corner kick of the match.

It looked like the NC Battalion would get on the scoreboard in the 19th minute when Sergio Ortiz almost scored his second overhead goal of the season, but the ball went flying over the crossbar. Both squads would have opportunities to score in the first half, but were unable to find the inside of the net.  What seemed to be a very fast half ended with zero stoppage time and a score of 0-0.

As the sun finally set behind the visitor bleachers the second half got underway. For the first 15 minutes of the second half Coras USA owned the time of possession. They looked like a team on a mission as they took six shots on goal in just 15 minutes. When you take six shots in such a small period of time you are almost guaranteed to score at least once. For Coras that goal came in the 56th minute on a deflection by Fernando Cabello.

“I thought to myself that you need to take it one shot at a time,” NC Battalion goalkeeper James Stroud commented when asked about the barrage of shots that he faced in a short period of time. “You have to stay in the moment during games like that and you cannot let your focus go elsewhere. You cannot think about what is going to happen 20 minutes from now.”

Momentum was on the side of Coras USA, a team that took four shots in the first half and just 15 minutes in had six shots.

The momentum swing came in the 76th minute of the game. Coras goalkeeper Alonso Lara came running out of the box and slide tackled a Battalion player, earning Lara a yellow card and NC Battalion a penalty kick. Justin Picou would take the penalty kick for the Battalion. Lara would dive to the right and Picou would bury the ball high into the center of the net. The Battalion would even up the game at 1 goal apiece with just 14 minutes remaining.

Coras would have one more opportunity to win the game. In stoppage time Coras would fire a laser at the bottom right hand corner of the next. Stroud standing in the middle of the box dove to his left and was able to knock the ball out of the box. This was the game for Coras as the Battalion would run out the clock. Stroud came up with one of the biggest saves of his career. This save cemented home field advantage for the NC Battalion.

When asked about the save, Stroud responded, “Just keep the ball out of the goal. We were trying to solidify that tie as we didn’t need a win at that point. We had to be staunch on defense and we were.”

Stroud would be named the Man of the Match with seven saves.

Whistles would ring out at Del Norte Stadium after 90 minutes of play with the final score NC Battalion 1, Deportivo Coras USA 1. This was another amazing game between the two teams. Both teams move to 0-0-2 against each other on the season.

“I thought we played well enough to get the result,” Deportivo Coras USA head coach Roberto Lopez added.  “I thought that we had the game under control. We had a little mental breakdown, which gave NC Battalion the opportunity to score the tying goal. A little breakdown cost us and changed the game.”

NC Battalion (7-2-3) will host Deportivo Coras USA (7-3-2) again next weekend in the first round of the playoffs. It should be another amazing game.

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