MADISON, Ala.--Sacramento Gold and Chattanooga FC will square off for the 2010 National Premier Soccer League Championship as they won their respective NPSL Semifinal matches on Thursday night.
For the first time in four years the Northeast Region champion will not play in the National Premier Soccer League Championship as Sacramento Gold defeated FC Sonic 4-1 in Madison, Alabama.
A 100 degree heat index greated both teams upon their arrival in Madison and the heat didn't let up on Thursday night as the humidity posed a challenge.
FC Sonic went up 1-0 courtesy of Cody Antonini's goal off of a free kick in the 73 minute. Ryan Hess' ball into the box was cleared by Herrera right to Antonini at the top of the box. Antonini didn't waste the chance as he finished into the left side of the net.
Sacramento Gold fought back and began to pressure Sonic who played more defensive after the first tally. Sacramento continued to attack down the right hand side and were rewarded as Manolo Piña's cross into the box was deflected in by AJ Barnold.
"At that point [the first goal] we felt, - that's our chance." said Sacramento Gold Head Coach Rick Caldwell.
Five minutes later Sacramento would capitalize on another chance as Ernesto Carranza cut inside from 16 yards out and finished beautifully with his left foot in the 78th.
Piña got his first goal on the night on 85 minutes as he beat a Sonic defender and scored on a tough angle inside the box. Chris Akwaja scored on an empty net in extra time to seal the victory.
The first half was played between the boxes as both teams struggled to find their footing early. Sacramento favored the 1-2 combination of Martinez and Ernesto on the right.
The half's best chance game in the 20th minute as Manolo Piña settled a cross inside the box but his first touch let him down as Bishop came out to collect.
Sonic would have a chance to score early but Herrera denied a chip from 12 yards out.
The second half opened up after Sonic's opening goal. Sacramento pushed forward and forced Sonic to drop back and defend, opening up lanes for Piña and Ernesto to exploit space on the ground.
Sonic had the chance to open the lead to two, but could not finish from inside the six yard box as Leslie Frasier's toe poke hit the post and deflected back into play.
Minutes later, Sacramento's luck would turn into a goal when Manolo Piña's cross found its way into the back of the net.
"We struggled in a few areas." said FC Sonic head coach Dave Weitzman. "We struggled putting a few passes together and at times wound up chasing the game a bit."
"As always it took a little bit of luck today." said Caldwell.
FC Sonic 0 1 - 1
Sacramento Gold 0 4 - 4
FC Sonic - Cody Antonini 58
Sacramento Gold - OG (AJ Barnold) 73
Sacramento Gold - Ernesto Carranza (Manolo Piña) 78
Sacramento Gold - Manolo Piña 85
Sacramento Gold - Chris Akwaja 90
FC SONIC: Bishop; Graf, Barnhold, Ciuffetelli, Ceconni; Odenweider, Hess, Lamont, Frasier, Antonni, Muscelli (Feimester, 68).
SACRAMENTO GOLD: Herrera, Martinez, Piña, Madu (Sutton, 90), Ramierez, Carranza, Chambers, Bermudez, Chimienti, Piña, Chimienti (Fonseca, 73)
Saves: Son (Bishop) 2, Sac (Herrera) 1. Shots: Son 5, Sac 5. Corner: Sonic 4, Sac 2. Fouls: Son 12, Sac 10. Offside: Son 3, Sac 1. Discipline: Sonic - Bishop (caution-tactical foul 88) Jose Martinez ( caution-unsporting conduct 90)
There is good soccer, great soccer, and beautiful soccer. Chattanooga FC and Madison 56ers added another level beyond beautiful as they entertained the crowd with a spectacular match won by Chattanooga FC 2-0 in the NPSL Semifinal nightcap.
Chattanooga struck in the 51st minute when Thomas Clark headed a corner kick back across the goal and into the net.
CFC sealed the deal in on 85 minutes when Sasha Viatrov broke down the left wing and played a perfect pass into the six to a streaking Robbie Hill. Hill was able to slide and knock the ball back across frame to give CFC a 2-0 lead.
"Our bench has been significant all year." said Brian Crossman. "Our center back [Clark] who replaced our injured captain got the first goal. Our second goal was off of one of our substitutes as well."
Madison 56ers Jon Szafranski may have been on the losing squad on the night, but he was brilliant in goal for Madison.
The former St. Mary's University standout shined as he denied Luis Salazar from point blank range in the second half and made a key diving save to keep the game in reach for the 56ers.
It was Madison who had the momentum early on, forcing Richard Masters into action on 15 minutes. Henry Aiyenero found himself open 16 yards out and his shot was denied by Masters.
In the 25th minute Chattanooga FC got their first opportunity when Irvin espinal found Luis Salazar for a diving header which went just over the bar.
Soon after it was Salazar again who found himself on the end of a Drew Courtney cross 10 yards from goal. Salazar's header was wide but a streaking CFC winger played the ball back to Salazar who volleyed over the net from six yards out.
Chattanooga looked the better team in the second half, attacking out wide and testing Szafranski with several dangerous crosses. He was equal to the task, stopping Espinal and Salazar to keep the match even.
It was Clark who broke the deadlock in the 51st on a pinpoint corner to the far post. Clark headed the ball into the ground and it bounced between Szafranski and the covering defender.
Madison could not find their offensive stride in the second half.
"Right at the end we were pushing forward quite a bit." said Madison 56ers Head Coach Jim Launder. "We had a spell of possession before their second goal but couldn't make anything out of it. They picked off a cross and boom they are running at us for a second goal."
CFC GK Masters protected the lead to the delight of the Chattanooga FC traveling fans, who applauded the Englishman with his namesake chant. What chances Madison could muster were diffused by Masters who was equal to Szafranski's effort in goal.
CFC head home to rest tomorrow, but will return for the biggest game in their history against the Sacramento Gold on Saturday.
"These guys [CFC] are competitors." said Crossman. "Whatever the challenge, these guys have stepped up and met it."
Chattanooga FC 0 2 - 2
Madison 56ers 0 0 - 0
Chattanooga FC - Thomas Clark 51
Chattanooga FC - Robbie Hill (Sasha Viatrov)