A Midwest Thing
Toronto and Chicago advance to Sunday's final
USL News Release
Saturday, August 2, 2008
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – Tonight’s side-by-side men’s semifinals between the Chicago Fire and D.C. United and the Toronto Lynx and Real Maryland FC yielded two winners by different results with a lot in common. For the first time in the three-year history of United Soccer Leagues Super-20 League North American Finals opponents from the same division – the Midwest, will square off in the final match of the Super-20 League season.
Close throughout, the Chicago Fire netted goals in the 5th, 68th and 70th minute to eliminate D.C. United. Across the way, the Toronto Lynx’s Christopher McBride found the back of the net in the first half to lead the Lynx into the final over Real Maryland, 1-0.
The match between the MLS development academies started with a bang. From the back, goalkeeper Brock Tomlinson forwarded a ball that was chipped in by teammate Mike Stephens. Frontrunner Chris Cutshaw brought down the pass, found an opening, and got off a shot lined at the back post. D.C. United goalkeeper Justin Epperson did well to get to the shot, but struggled in controlling it and the shot trickled into the empty net for an early 1-0 lead.
About 20 minutes of ultra-intense play between the four organized sides followed, but neither match produced any legitimate scoring threats until Toronto’s McBride began his run at the front post.
“We had just taken off the holding midfielder,” began McBride, describing his game winning goal. “I was supporting the two forwards from my midfielder position when I saw Anthony Doran with the ball out wide. I ran towards the front post and he played a great ball into my feet. I noticed the keeper was charging the front post so I flicked it towards the back post.”
McBride’s flick spun backwards into the net, over Real Maryland goalkeeper Oscar Alvarenga for the 1-0 lead.
Unaware of anything besides what was happening in their match, D.C. United’s best two chances of the night came and went thanks to Chicago’s Tomlinson, who made two saves on two, very good looks on goal.
“All year I thought Tomlinson was the best Under-20 keeper around,” said Chicago Fire Technical Director Larry Sunderland. “He does exactly what you need him to, he will make the huge saves that keep you in a game and he will stand in there and collect all the routine saves as well.”
Tomlinson’s efforts kept the score 1-0, headed into half time on both fields.
Both D.C United and Real Maryland needed to press for the equalizer heading into the second frame, but it was the Fire and the Lynx that started the period on the attack.
Beating on Epperson’s goal, the Fire deserved to score but was denied twice by the goalkeeper, who kept his side within striking distance.
D.C. United slowly began to return to form nearing the 50th minute. Their top player, Drew Yates, who spends his autumn playing for the University of Maryland, excelled on the left flank and drew two useful corner kick attempts that were ushered away by Fire defenders.
On the second field, Toronto was relentless in their search for an insurance goal. They had several chances to convert, but could not put Real away for good. It became increasingly apparent that if Real was coming back, it would have to be via counterattack.
D.C. United began bolstering their attack with offensive-minded substitutions nearing the 65th minute but everything D.C. threw at net was being gobbled up by Tomlinson. The building pressure was relieved in the waning minutes when Cutshaw picked out teammate Matt Eliason alone in front of goal. Epperson did his best to save the day, but Eliason simply waited on the exposed goalkeeper to make his move before sliding a pass under Epperson for a 2-0 lead.
Chicago added a third goal two minutes later when Eliason found Josh Thiermann on a breakaway to Epperson’s left. D.C. United’s defense was unable to recover and Thiermann sent a ball to the back post that got the best of Epperson.
The late minutes were a bit more dramatic for Real, who was pressing hard against an organized Toronto backline. Despite a quality effort to even the score late, Toronto was too study and advanced, 1-0 over Real Maryland.
“Real was a good team,” said McBride after the game. “They were different than the teams we played earlier in this competition. Where Red Bull New York and H.C. United was very physical, Real was speedy and very direct.”
The two Midwest Division opponents square off tomorrow at noon directly following the women’s final between Triangle FC and Parsippany SC set for 10 AM EST.
“USL has done a good job with the Midwest Division,” said Sunderland following the match. “Cincinnati was added to the league this year and they nearly edged D.C. United to get into the semifinals. I believe the division will continue to get strong in coming years.”
“Toronto is a good, solid club,” added Sunderland. “Tomorrow should be very interesting.”