Playoff Roundup: Conference Semifinals
Penalties, penalties and more penalties
More craziness ensued in the playoffs this week. Three of the four games were decided in part by penalties, and not in the way you might expect. 3 of the 4 games went to the higher seed, but only one of them made it easy.
San Antonio 3-0 Oakland Roots
It didn’t take San Antonio long to assert its dominance in the playoffs. Just under 2 minutes in, Samuel Adeniran netted one on the turn from a difficult wide position. The Texans then rode that lead until the 75th minute when Santiago Patino added a second, and then a third just as regulation time ended to ice it. That’s not to say that Oakland didn’t make a game of it. They had over 70% possession (San Antonio being even more extreme than usual in that regard) and had a combination of near misses and impressive goalkeeping by Jordan Farr to keep them off the scoreboard.
Louisville City 2(5)-2(3) Pittsburgh Riverhounds
For the second straight game, Pittsburgh ended a playoff game 2-2 and went to a shootout. This shootout lasted only half as long as last week’s though, as Lou City’s Daniel Faundez denied Pitt’s Daniel Griffin in the first round, and City proceeded to finish all 5 chances. That it went to a shootout was remarkable, though. Unlike San Antonio, Lou City came into this game pretty much asleep. Pitt’s Russell Cicerone scored in the 14th minute and again in the 47th to take a shock 2-0 lead. They remained dominant for most of the game until Manny Perez finally got one past Jahmali Waite in the 83rd minute on a set piece play. Then just 2 minutes later Elijah Wynder was brought down in the box by Shane Wiedt and Cameron Lancaster converted the penalty to tie it up. In the end, then, Pitt was totally undone by penalties and there was zero commiseration in Birmingham.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks 2-1 Sacramento Republic
This one was probably the most competitive game of the week despite being the two lowest seeds in the entire playoff field. SacRep broke on top in the 18th minute when Rodrigo Lopez found himself on the end a long distance through ball from Dan Casey and chipped it cheekily over Jeff Caldwell’s head. The lead only lasted until the 37th minute though when Michee Ngalina scored when his shot took a deflection and got by Danny Vitiello. Casey, Ngalina and Vitiello were again a big part of the game when Casey fouled Ngalina in the box 67 minutes in, But Vitiello stopped Elvis Amoh’s PK attempt, and the game went to extra time. Just over 5 minutes into that, Ngalina was yet again the playmaker, putting the eventual gamewinner in the net.
Memphis 901 0-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Yet another game decided by penalties, and this time was some serious drama. The game, delayed from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon due to rain, was dominated by Memphis until well into the second half, but with no breakthrough by either side though The first shot on goal in the entire game came in the 86th minute when Aaron Molly’s attempt was stopped by Rowdies keeper Phil Breno. Then, 3 minutes into stoppage time, Tampa’s Jordan Scarlett knocked down Phillip Goodrum in the box well off the ball in a boneheaded move. But Breno once again denied Molloy on the PK. 3 minutes after that it was Memphis keeper Trey Muse’s turn to be stupid, tripping Tampa’s Dayonn Harris on an obvious scoring chance in the box. Leo Fernandes converted the penalty (although there was significant encroachment and it should have been retaken) and that was that.