We’re still trying to catch our breath from this past weekend...It was a brisk, but beautiful Saturday here at the Fox Den with a glistening trophy waiting to be lifted at night fall. We knew what was at stake: a win, and we’re champions...a loss, and we finish second at best in the conference. It was a rematch we couldn't have scripted any better...a championship was on the line as we faced the only team to defeat us this season, REAL NY FC.
Similar to our previous match with REAL, each loose ball was a battle, each head ball was a decisive opportunity, and each pass needed to be crisp. There was very little room for error as we knew their defense was one of the best in the entire UPSL, let alone our conference, as they only allowed 3 goals in 7 matches.
REAL were leaders of the conference for most of the year and did not drop points until their 7th match which is quite impressive. This was a major takeaway for us because we felt that we had some momentum on our side. Although this was technically an “Away” match for us because REAL has used our facility as their home venue, we felt that a second road game in a row for them could be trouble which we needed to take advantage of. We were in the mindset to have them drop points for the second consecutive week!
The first half consisted of shared possession, but we were able to control most of the ball as time progressed. It was clear that REAL was playing for a tie and were sitting back a bit while we were being as aggressive as possible. The 50-50 balls were ours for the taking and the middle of the park was consistently controlled by Chris Rubio and Papa Mane.
We moved the ball around quite nicely from wing to wing and up to our number 9, Alexis Archilla. We even had a couple free kicks from our guy Christian Henry, but to no avail. The issue we ran into was similar to our previous match though...REAL’s back four were an organized wall that didn’t let anything past.
REAL themselves only had a couple real chances in the first-half, both of which were handled easily by Etan Mabourakh. Our back line in addition to Etan proved vital for us throughout the first-half as we closed out the initial 45 in a 0-0 tie.
With only one half remaining in our season, we knew we needed to get onto the scoresheet. We did not want to accept anything less than a win. We were pleased with our performance thus far, but it needed to be better. Coach Holzer made some tactical changes to begin the second half, yet we kept the same mindset: finish 1 goal and fight from there.
The first few minutes of the second half were extremely heated from the get go. A small scuffle actually occurred which ended up leaving REAL a man down as a member of their team was sent off with a red card! Luckily for us, it appeared they had lost some focus and having an extra man for us was certainly a game changer. As the sky fell darker, however, we knew time was running out. We kept our aggression and kept pressing. At around the 75th minute our hard work finally paid off. We forced a corner kick and there was a sloppy clearance from REAL. The ball fell into Chris Rubio's feet...
We returned the favor to REAL as they defeated us on two smashes from 30+ yards out in our opening match, well...the tides had turned as Chris Rubio sailed one into the top left corner of REAL’s net from way outside the 18-yard box!
After Chris’ wonder goal, the game was solidly in our control. We continued to move the ball with purpose as REAL became fatigued and frustrated. The final whistle blew and the field became engulfed with orange jerseys as our entire bench cleared and sprinted to celebrate with their teammates and fans. It was a hard fought match and we would like to congratulate REAL NY FC on a very successful regular season and we wish them luck as they head into the playoffs. We won as a team and with your support from the sideline. Thank you all for being part of our very first season and helping us attain a championship. We hope and are working on making more days like this come true here at Hudson Sports Complex. We can't wait to see you all back here in the Spring for what we want to be another title winning season!