2022/23 Matchweek 15 Review
The regular season is officially complete after Matchweek 15 for the Great Lakes and Midwest Conferences - which means, the 2023 NFPL Playoffs are next! Before we begin to speculate over the playoff picture, let's dig into Matchweek 15's results. Find the highlights and play-by-play for each match below .
Columbus Futsal 5-3 Futsal Factory Academy
A win for Columbus Futsal against bottom-of-the-conference Futsal Factory would guarantee home-court advantage for Columbus in the playoffs. Futsal Factory, traveling without several star players, were only playing for pride at this point.
Most fans of the NFPL would have expected the home side to win or even dominate this fixture, but Futsal Factory fought hard and were able to give Columbus fans a scare.
The visitors took a lead just a few minutes into the game, with NFPL debutant Gianluca Pomponio sneaking beyond the Columbus defenders at the back post to redirect Drew Ducker's smashed cross into the net from close range.
Several scoreless minutes followed - Graham Unsworth for Futsal Factory came close to burying one in the bottom corner, while Columbus Futsal kept Futsal Factory goalkeeper Robert Damron busy on the other end. The breakthrough came from none other than Columbus talisman Marcelo Matos with a lovely solo effort starting from his own half, tying the game at 1-1.
A minute later, Columbus had flipped the game on its head. Vinicius Galvão's driving run was tackled but only into Juliano Castilhos' path. His well-found pass was tapped in at the far post by GalvÃO to take a 2-1 lead with under 2 minutes to play in the first half.
Futsal Factory found the tying goal with 48 seconds left in the half, a brilliant strike into the top corner from Antonio Cassano off a free kick. The two teams went into the halftime break all square at 2-2.
The second half began similarly, with Futsal Factory finding the net early through Unejs Ramaxhiku to take a 3-2 lead.
The constant pressure applied by Columbus eventually broke the visitors - Galvão scored his second of the evening with a deflected shot that wriggled beneath Damron to tie the game.
Excellent last-man defending from both sides kept the game tied going into the final 4 minutes - a tie wouldn't be enough for Columbus to guarantee home court in the playoffs. They eventually got their way, with Matos finding Dener Marques at the left post - his deftly flicked finish grabbed a late 4-3 lead. With just minutes to play, Galvão applied the coup de grâce with a clinical finish rifled high and hard beyond Damron.
The win means that Columbus Futsal are the outright regular season champions of the Great Lakes Division, and in doing so they ensure home-court advantage in the semifinal matchup on April 15th.
FC Tryzub 3-3 Grand Rapids OLé
In the regular season, no two teams performed better than FC Tryzub and Grand Rapids OLé and many thought we were witnessing a matchup between the eventual champions and runners up. Fans were given a show, despite the game ending with a fair 3-3 draw in Chicago.
Taras Kobliuk opened the scoring for FC Tryzub early in the game, ripping a free kick around the OLé wall and into the net to take a 1-0 lead.
Bojan Pejovic did well to stop Johan Vazquez from close range, and Mose Crawford clipped one just wide for the visitors as each team possessed the ball well and continued to test the opposing keepers. It was Tryzub getting the second goal though, with Kobliuk and Perez playing a neat give-and-go for Kobliuk to grab his and Tryzub's second of the evening to take a 2-0 lead into halftime.
The halftime team talk from Coach Fabian Rodriguez changed the game. An early free-kick routine from Grand Rapids OLé ended with the ball in the back of the net as Daniel de Leon was found open to drill it into the far corner.
With plenty of time left on the board, OLé began to fly the keeper and possessed more of the ball in Tryzub's half. It paid off with under 7 to play as they found Gabe Villagomez to cut in and hit the back of the net past Pejovic's near post - all tied up at 2-2.
After grinding for the entire half in an attempt at a comeback, Tryzub's goal 15 seconds later was brutal as Taras Dydych was able to quickly turn and score past Miguel Cervantes in net.
With under 4 to play, it was once more OLé's brilliant passing and 5-man attack that earned the tying goal. Cervantes' incredible poise going forward and ability to maintain possession in pursuit of the goal make him so valuable to this team. Villagomez was again left alone on the left flank and he made no mistake converting from close range.
In the final 3 minutes, Cervantes showed his importance to the team beyond going forward, saving two penalty kicks to keep the game tied and share the points between the two teams. At the other end, Dmytro Fedyk in net threw his body in front of a Villagomez shot to prevent a goal from going into the home team's net. Mose Crawford cleared one off the line with just seconds remaining in a frantic end to the game and to the regular season.
NFPL 2023 Playoffs:
With the regular season coming to a close, the NFPL playoffs are set. The top two teams from each conference will play in the semifinal matchup on April 15th.
THE NFPL RETURNS...
Don't miss the NFPL playoffs! The semifinals will be on April 15th and the finals on April 22nd.
Follow along and stay tuned here and on the National Futsal Premier League social platforms for coverage, previews, highlights, and more.