2022/23 NFPL Championship Review
We Have A Winner!
Grand Rapids OLé and FC Tryzub met in the 2022/23 NFPL Championship match just outside Chicago on Saturday, April 22nd to crown a champion and end the 2022/23 season. Fans were treated to an intense, fast-paced, physical match between the league's two best teams on a court full of stars.
A tight, back-and-forth game was decided in the final minutes in front of a loud, sold-out crowd at Wheeling Rec Center with FC Tryzub taking home the trophy after a 5-4 victory.
The visitors came out stronger at the start, peppering Bojan Pejovic's goal in the opening minutes and forcing him into a number of early saves. It looked like FC Tryzub might be overwhelmed early and OLé would break the deadlock, scoring with 15:24 left to play in the first half as Gabe Villagomez ran onto a loose ball for a free shot on goal with Pejovic just a little slow to react.
The ferocious start from OLé would cool down as the home team worked themselves into the game and the following minutes were significantly more even - Pejovic smothered chances and Miguel Cervantes did well to keep Tryzub out at the other end. Mikhailo Ryabui's sliding shot slowly slid past Cervantes and hit the post and the home fans got louder behind their team, creating an impressive, frenzied atmosphere that propelled FC Tryzub for their opening goal moments later.
Vasyl Skrylov pass across the box found Taras Kobliuk streaking down the wing and his powerful strike squeaked in at Cervantes' near post to tie the game at 1-1. Villagomez, impressive all night long for Grand Rapids OLé, smacked a shot against the bar a few minutes before halftime and TJ Ifaturoti came close for the visitors, skimming his shot just beyond the near post, but the score remained tied as the teams went into the break.
The second half opened with OLé in possession, resulting in a decent opportunity for Chris Mendez from 12 yards out but his shot blazed over the bar. Seconds later, Tryzub would capitalize on an uncharacteristic mistake from two of Grand Rapids OLé's best players.
A strong and fair tackle from Kobliuk on Lito Esquivel sent him sprinting toward the OLé goal. The OLé defense recovered well, getting 3 men behind the ball to cover the other Tryzub attacker but Kobliuk only had his eyes on goal, firing a lovely finish over Cervantes' foot at his near post to take a 2-1 lead.
Less than a minute later, Cervantes was attempting an ambitious pass forward at the halfway line. Andrii Sadovskyi's cut it off, intercepting the pass and beating the goalkeeper with one touch to present the simplest of passes into the net with nothing but space ahead of him to go up 3-1.
To his credit, Cervantes didn't let his head go down, making an excellent save and goal-line clearance at the 17:45 mark to keep OLé in the game. They needed a quick response and they got it through Villagomez, scoring his second of the night after the high press dispossessed Ryabui of the ball and gave Villagomez and Jair Real a 2-on-1 opportunity that Villagomez finished calmly beneath Pejovic.
Pejovic continued to come up huge for FC Tryzub and he was a brick wall in front of the goal all night. OLé fashioned great chances from within the penalty area and Pejovic stood tall, getting his body in the way almost every time. A big save at one end with 13 minutes to play was capitalized at the other end as Kobliuk scored his third of the night.
Kobliuk jumped an Esquivel pass and intercepted it and then ran at him, ghosting beyond him to go 1-on-1 against Cervantes from the right flank. His delicate chip was sublime and the home fans exploded as they took a 4-2 lead.
Once again, Grand Rapids OLé faced a two-goal deficit and the quick response was there when they needed it, with Esquivel making up for his mistake. An intercepted pass sent OLé on a lightning fast counter down the court and Esquivel was there to pounce on a loose ball, finishing under Pejovic to make the score 4-3.
The clock ticked down and both teams accumulated fouls, with Tryzub hitting their 6th in with 7 minutes to play. The resulting penalty taken by Chris Mendez was hit over the bar as Pejovic stood tall in his area. A massive save from Pejovic with 5 minutes to play prevented a tie as he smothered Villagomez's close-range shot which would have been a tap-in against most keepers in the league.
Once more, it was Kobliuk there to score for FC Tryzub, hitting a long-range effort on an empty net to take a 5-3 lead with just over 4 minutes to play.
A fingertip save from Cervantes tipped a Kobliuk penalty onto the bar with under 3 to play as OLé sought a way back into the game. TJ Ifaturoti would get their 4th with 1:41 to play, finishing beneath Pejovic after a scrappy bit of play in Tryzub's half. Esquivel had a strike with under a minute to play that went inches wide but at the end FC Tryzub held on to secure the win and the 2022/23 NFPL Championship trophy.
THE NFPL RETURNS...
With the NFPL Southwest Championship match! Brusa FC will host New Mexico Flagship FC on Saturday, April 29th as the NFPL season comes to a complete finish with a champion crowned in the Southwest Conference.