NFPL Semifinals Review
Great Lakes Conference
Columbus Futsal 3-12 Grand Rapids OLé
These two teams were separated by just one goal over two matches this season, but the semifinal game was anything but close as Grand Rapids OLé dominated from start to finish, eliminating Columbus Futsal from playoff contention.
Early goals for Grand Rapids saw them jump out to an unassailable lead that Columbus wouldn't recover from, despite having numerous opportunities (including several from the penalty spot) that they'll regret missing. Jeo Garcia opened the scoring, smacking the bar and in with an unassisted shot with under 4 minutes played. 3 minutes later, they'd double their advantage as Alexis Mendez's looping header went over Barbosa.
With 12 minutes left in the half, OLé had made it 3-0 as Gabe Villagomez spun through the Columbus defense and earned a tap-in on Jair Real's back-post pass. Columbus took a timeout, and the next few minutes of sustained pressure were broken brutally by a mistake at the back that Chris Mendez capitalized on unassisted. He would score the next two as well, a hat trick within 7 minutes that destroyed Columbus. He jumped a pass and buried a low finish into the corner for his second goal.
A Marcelo Matos penalty made the score 5-1 and briefly gave the home side some life. Accumulated fouls earned Columbus another penalty moments later and Matos blazed it over the goal. Yet another penalty for Columbus was saved as Miguel Cervantes stood tall between the posts. Another nice save from Cervantes created the third goal for Mendez as the rebound fell to him and he scored from his own box to go up 6-1.
Cervantes saved yet another penalty and it's possible that Columbus began to feel that it might not be their night. However, a pass from Matos to Yul Illidge would be deflected into the net for an OLé own goal to make it 6-2 before halftime.
The second half was a clinic on how to kill the game off from Grand Rapids OLé. As Columbus was forced to chase the game with such a big deficit from early in the second half, Grand Rapids hit them on the counter again and again, running out of sight and into the Championship game.
Alexis Mendez fed Jeo Garcia for an easy tap-in from the center of the penalty area to go up 7-2 in the 23rd minute before Gabe Villagomez got his second of the evening, skipping past Matos for a free shot at Barbosa and the goal from 10 yards - one he wouldn't miss for an 8-2 lead.
Barbosa made a huge save on Villagomez a minute later as the Columbus defense struggled to keep OLé out. At the other end of the floor, misplaced passes and the inability to convert chances plagued the Columbus offense as they could not find a rhythm to build their way back into the game in front of their home fans.
With Barbosa frequently playing upcourt, Columbus were left exposed at the back and Johan Vazquez would make them pay, getting on the scoreboard after stripping the defense and scoring on an empty net. The same would happen with two minutes to play for TJ Ifaturoti, making the score 10-2 with an easy goal. OLé would make it 11 less than a minute later as Mose Crawford scored on the break.
As the game came to a conclusion, cards were shown as several Columbus players were sent off for violent fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct. Jair Real scored the final goal for OLé and Columbus were able to squeeze in a third off a brilliant, but meaningless, goal from the kickoff by Gui Karaoglan.
In the end, it was a tale of two fortunes and not what many hoped to see as Grand Rapids OLé came to Columbus, conquered, and left with a spot in the Championship booked for April 22nd.
FC Tryzub 12-5 Joy Athletic
Similar to our other semifinal, FC Tryzub would jump out to an early lead and never lose it as they overpowered the visitors from Minnesota from start to finish. Ivan Kleban was a thorn in Joy Athletic's side all evening and he made the first goal, smashing a shot against the post that Vasyl Skrylov turned in from close range to take a 1-0 lead after two minutes.
A good save from Kroonblaud in net rebounded out to Kleban, and his unerring half-volley arrowed its way into the corner from 20 meters - an excellent strike that was worthy of the 2-0 lead it earned in the 6th minute. Kleban got his second minutes later, jumping onto a misplaced pass and finding the back of the net for a 3-0 lead to the home side.
Griffin Price continued his excellent season, getting Joy Athletic on the board after skipping inside and firing beyond Pejovic in net with 6 minutes left in the half. The two teams would trade goals until the end of the half, although Kroonblawd was certainly the busier goalkeeper and seemed to keep the score close. However, there was nothing he could do about FC Tryzub's fourth goal: John Perez slammed the ball into the top corner in this Goal of the Month contender from Taras Kobliuk's pass.
Great feet and passing from Gvozden Locovic gave Rafael Hernandes a tap-in at the back post to give Tryzub a 5-1 lead, but Joy Athletic's immediate response was one of the best goals of the evening and a Goal of the Month Contender. A corner from Lioul Minas went over the head of Griffin Price - his back-heel found Jakob Mohrlok to volley in from close range, a truly outrageous assist from the young Joy ala. Moments later, Minas would bang in a penalty and the score was 5-3.
Tryzub would restore their 3-goal advantage just before halftime, with Ivan Kleban skipping through two tackles and finding Kobliuk alone at the back post to poke home to take a 6-3 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Tryzub ran away with it. Some lovely passing between Kleban and Kobliuk gave Skrylov an easy finish at the back post in the 25th minute. Evan Moreno brought one back for Joy in the 28th minute, but the visitors ran out of gas and were torn apart in the final 10 minutes.
Moreno's poor back-heel flick started the break which started the onslaught, as Mikhailo Ryabui combined with Dymtro Zbuzhovyy to score and go up 8-4. Quick passing from Tryzub continued to eviscerate Joy Athletic - Kobliuk scored again on a Serhii Strakhovskyi back-post pass.
As Joy Athletic flew the keeper in the final 5 minutes, FC Tryzub put it out of reach with Kobliuk finding his hat trick, flicking around the defender and into the net from Skrylov's assist. Taras Dydych applied the cherry on top, scoring the 12th and final goal for the home side. David Riera would score a penalty for Joy Athletic in the final two minutes, but it was far from enough as last season's second-place finishers bowed out in the semifinals.
THE NFPL Champion Will be Crowned:
FC Tryzub will host Grand Rapids OLé on April 22nd for the NFPL Championship game!