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Olympians Grab UPSL Title with Dramatic Late Goal

calendario 08.02.2023
by: Salvador Torres
  • Finals
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Olympians Grab UPSL Title with Dramatic Late Goal

Olympians FC gets the game-winning goal in stoppage time to be crowned UPSL national champions over SCU Heat

Pre-game:
This is the first-ever encounter for both SCU Heat and Olympians. The South Carolina heat made their journey to the finals by taking the mid-Atlantic seasonal title undefeated and allowing only 7 goals in the regular season. 

In the mid-Atlantic postseason, they topped North Carolina FC academy 3-1 to clinch the national playoffs. From there, they managed a clean sheet vs. Olympiacos DC, topped national spring runners-up Beaman United, then two more clean sheets against little Haiti supreme and Santa Cruz FC.

In that semifinal match against SCFC, they could fend off a possession-based Brazilian-style attack by having more defenders just outside their own box and being patient for a toe poke or physically preventing the cross from the wings. They come off as a counterattacking, physically defensive side.

For Olympians of Arizona, they also won their conference title undefeated (with one tie). They outscored their opponents in the Arizona playoffs; 10-1 scoreline vs. Coronado AC and 5-2 over FC Arizona U-23. They handled some of SoCal's best teams in the national playoffs, including the LA Galaxy Academy, then blanked Deportivo Rose City 4-0 before reaching the semifinals. 

On Friday, they played Rush AMC3 in an exciting 5-4 showdown that earned their ticket to the finals. In that match, OLY had a back n fourth battle with AMC3, but the players had the autonomy to express their individual skills by not shying away from 1v1 battles, sprinting to an open position, or putting pressure. They are a team that leaves it all on the field.

Match Recap:
Both teams are set to kick off on a sunny winter day in southern California. As play began, OLYM held the ball on longer than Heat and attacked the wing. While on the attack, they often employed a misdirection tactic where they had the ball on the right side of the field, bait some defenders till they got bunched up, then switched the ball, mainly on the left side. They would get more chances at goal, but shots were limited. Defensively, they won more physical battles in the midfield, and their defense wasn't too challenged.

Their attack came more from the air for SCU Heat, with defenders sending diagonal lob passes and getting their targets often. The defenders also allowed the attack to come as they didn't apply pressure till OLYM got to their final 3rd, letting the build-up for crosses and pass-move plays before they attempted to shut down the attack. They always stayed stacked just outside their half-circle. On the attack, SCU didn't try to punch up the middle or have 1v1 challenges in the midfield as they did more pass, pass back-move, and pass plays.    

The pace from both teams seemed timid as they were testing each other's limits and game plans. OLYM had more notable chances at goal, while SCU Heat didn't. The half would end scoreless.

The second half begins, and OLYM continues on the same game plan as the first. They retained possession, drove the ball up the gut, playing out of the back, and got to SCU's final 3rd to think of a path to attack. The Heat remained more defensive but got significantly more opportunities to score compared to the first half.

However, the game got choppy with fouls, resulting in many bookings for the boys in red. Not malice in nature but enough to frustrate them. On the attack, they went linear but usually got shut down in the final 3rd. 

(Oympians coach's reaction to receiving a yellow card)
 
Tempers rise in the 77' where an SCU defender brought down OLYM's Paolo Cardozo after losing possession in front of the OLYM bench with a grapple to keep Cardozo from getting up. The boys in blue players and staff protest furiously for a booking, but ironically, the coach gets the yellow instead. 

Two plays later, in the 80' the Heat nicked possession away in the midfield for a counter which leaves Michael Smith open on the left in the box. His shot goes wide left in what could have been the gut punch to OLYM dominance. 
(Michael Smiths shot going wide) 
 
From there, the Arizona team kept knocking on the door, and SCU played counterattack till stoppage time. As the end of regulation approached, OYLM won corner after corner, desperate to send one in. One of the corners was sent in the box, then cleared by the SCU GK Juan Rocco. The rebound ball was sent back into the box by Cardozo, followed by a header challenge which landed to open OLYM's Isaias German, whose shot landed on the roof of the goal to finally break the tie and get his team the lead in stoppage time. 
(Pitch invasion after the final whistle)

The fans roared in celebration, and the Olympian players and staff rushed to the main camera ecstatically to cheer the goal. The ref would blow the whistle after a couple of last plays, and the Olympians fans rushed the field to cheer their winners of the 2022 UPSL national championship. 
 

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