In a nod to the Avengers phenomenon, the MASL’s four super teams battled today for the right to qualify for the end game.
The San Diego Sockers, Milwaukee Wave, Monterrey Flash, and Baltimore Blast were back in the Ron Newman Cup Conference Finals for the second straight year.
The Wave and Flash, who avenged their losses to the Blast in last year’s playoffs, will now face off in the Ron Newman Cup Championship on May 5 at 5:05pm CDT at Milwaukee’s UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
After losing to the Blast in the playoffs, in fact, the last two years, Milwaukee secured home field advantage in the regular season, which might have been the difference as they edged Baltimore by the slightest of margins, 2-1, in the Eastern Conference Final.
In the Western Conference Final, San Diego rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead only to lose that lead with 2:19 left and lose the game, 4-3, just 54 seconds into overtime on Miguel Vaca’s well struck game-winner.
In what was the lowest scoring game in PASL/MASL history, the Wave shutout the Blast over the game’s final 58:33. Fans watching online missed Andrew Hoxie’s goal 1:27 into the game, and Marcio Leite’s tying marker about 10 minutes later as the first 28 minutes of the game were not carried on Eleven Sports digital channel as scheduled.
After a scoreless second and third quarter Ian Bennett poked a ball from the outstretched grasp of William Vanzela and banked it into the far post off Mike Deasel’s hand to give Milwaukee their first lead of the game at 5:11 of the final frame.
The fast-moving game featured only 27 fouls (18 my Milwaukee) and no penalties. The Wave defense successfully blocked most of Baltimore’s fourth quarter shots, keeping goalkeeper Josh Lemos insulated.
After the Blast went to the sixth attacker with 2:18 left, Bennett had a golden chance to ice the game, but rushed his shot which went wide. In one final push with nine seconds left Tony Donatelli sent a long ball into the box. Lemos tried to knock it away, but it fell to Juan Pereira who spun and ripped one off the crossbar with four seconds left and the ball bounced harmlessly away to preserve the Wave victory.
After 10 championship appearances in the last 11 years and six titles, the Blast’s quest for a four-pete ended in Milwaukee.
Back in San Diego, where the Sockers were riding a 23-game winning streak, things were a little more hotly contested in the first half. The game got physical early and the raucous crowd booed Franck Tayou every time he touched the ball and Tayou only egged them on.
Tayou opened the scoring and Brayan Aguilar made it 2-0 late in the second quarter. Leonardo De Oliveira cut the tension, by getting the Sockers on the board 11 seconds after Aguilar’s goal.
In the second quarter Kraig Chiles reverse headed in a long Christian Gutierrez pass to tie the game.
After teams went into the locker rooms tied 2-2, the third quarter went scoreless, but Monterrey had the better of the chances and when Boris Pardo wasn’t making amazing saves, he was being bailed out by the goalposts.
With 5:42 left Brandon Escoto fed a pass into the top of the arc to De Oliveira, who spun and blasted one by Diego Reynoso to give the Sockers a 3-2 lead.
The Sockers nearly flawless season went awry with 2:19 left when Damian Garcia chipped a long pass into the corner boards and Raymundo Contreras overplayed the carom, which fell to Aguilar for an easy one-timer to tie the game.
Vaca made short work of overtime when his long shot tucked under the crossbar and mockingly bounced a few times near the goal line before resting in the goal.
Chiles and Escoto were kept quiet, as was Landon Donovan, who could have attracted national media attention to a Sockers championship appearance.
With the Blast out of the way Flash will try to win a second championship and sixth overall in Monterrey arena soccer history. The Wave will be going for their seventh title and first since 2012.