North Park is through to the men's final
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|North Park celebrates their shoot-out victory over Chicago.|
Photos by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com
In a rematch of Chicago powerhouses, North Park dismissed the South Siders from the University of Chicago in their semifinal matchup on penalty kicks, 7-6, following a 0-0 draw. Though North Park won the initial matchup this year, 1-0, on the road, they were outplayed through regulation and two overtimes by their city rivals. And though the Maroons dominated play, they failed to put their chances away, although their fans may rightly point to a second-half offside decision that replays would show was perhaps incorrect. Regardless, the Vikings stayed in the game, had a couple of good chances of their own, and—after seven rounds of penalty kicks—found the decisive kick in the eighth round, as Gustav Ericsson scored and goalkeeper Mathias Stulen saved to send the Vikings to their first national championship game in program history.
Attacking left to right in the first half, Chicago looked to press the issue going forward. And after an early attempt from dangerman Max Lopez, the Maroons had a fantastic opportunity less than 10 minutes in. Forward Matthew Koh made a nice move down the right and served a low ball in that looked to have drawn. However, instead of finding strike partner Max Lopez, the ball went just behind the Chicago center forward, and the chance went begging.
In the first 10 minutes, North Park wasn’t able to see much of the ball, as Chicago dominated possession. That said, the Vikings did have a couple of good looks going the other way, as a long throw from the left wing almost caused some problems. However, North Park almost got caught on the break, and it took a wonderful intervention from defender Kyle Robson to prevent Chicago’s Max Lopez from breaking in 1-v-1 with Stulen.
With 20 minutes left in the half, Chicago almost made the breakthrough. A wide-open Dayo Adeosun hit one from around 30 yards out. Though central, the shot was well-struck and dipping, causing Stulen to spill the shot, and it seemed that a Maroon might pounce. However, the Vikings defense was able to clear the ball away, and the game remained scoreless.
Three minutes later, a long serve put Adeosun into a good position with just one defender to beat. Despite making good contact with the ball and with Stulen slightly erring towards his near post, Adeosun’s shot went past the far post, and North Park could breathe again.
With height throughout its roster, it became evident that North Park aimed to put the Maroons under pressure with high serves into the box. However, the Chicago defense held firm as North Park continued to grow into the game, and the Vikings managed to put together some solid one-touch passing moves.
In the 41st minute, Chicago’s Sam Drablos looked to be in a good position to break the deadlock, as a ball found him wide open in the box around eight yards out. However, Drablos couldn’t make clean contact with the ball, and Stulen was able to save cleanly, sending the teams into the half 0-0.
Just after the half, North Park had its first shot of the game, as Shatil Khoury headed wide. After Koh had a shot of his own go wide, North Park had a corner kick which amounted to nothing. It appeared that the Vikings were perhaps coming out of the half energized and ready to put their mark on the game. Yet it would be Chicago who would resume dominance, as the Maroons had two corner kicks in quick succession, neither of which came to anything.
|Junior forward Matthew Koh presses the attack for Chicago.|
With Lopez being kept quiet by the Vikings defense, Chicago wingers Adeosun and Koh were causing problems to North Park. The two used their speed and trickery to get at the Vikings down the side, and both looked like they had the potential to create opportunities every time they came down the pitch.
As the game entered the final quarter of an hour, it looked as if Chicago had finally broken the deadlock, as first-year forward Carter Romero finished after Stulen spilled Adeosun's shot. However, the linesman adjudged Romero to be offside, and the goal was negated, although replays suggested the Chicago attacker was well onside.
With 15 minutes left in regulation, North Park was able to string a few passes together, and the Maroons were forced to foul the Vikings around 25 yards out. The initial service hit the wall, but the ball found its way to Carel Kawele, who got off a nice effort that looked ticketed for the bottom-left corner. However, Chicago goalkeeper Hill Bonin—who hadn't had to make a save all game—made a fantastic save to keep the game scoreless, as the Vikings looked primed to take the lead.
Chicago was still controlling play, but, having weathered the storm, North Park was now well and truly in this one. And the Vikings almost made Chicago pay, as a steal inside the box very nearly resulted in a North Park chance, before the Maroons scrambled the ball away.
Outshot 18-2 in regulation, North Park had done well to stay in the game to overtime, and it seemed to be making the most of its new lease on life. The Vikings had a decent amount of possession in the first overtime, as well as some decent opportunities, as a corner kick from Henrik Roseholt was headed over by Matias Warp. North Park then got off a couple of shots from Erlend Kemers and Jason Gonzalez, but both efforts were thwarted by Bonin and the Maroons defense, respectively.
Chicago would have a chance with 15 seconds left in the period, as the Maroons earned a corner. However, Koh's delivery couldn't find anyone, and it was on to the second overtime.
The 104th minute saw Adeosun very nearly win it for Chicago. Having been set free on the right, the Maroons attacker broke in on Stulen, who looked to be out of position. Despite having Andre Abedian up with him, Adeosun took the left-footed shot, which he put wide of the far post. Once again, North Park had been taken to the brink—and once again, the Maroons had failed to take advantage.
Trying to make their dominance pay, the Maroons had two more shots before the game entered penalty kicks. However, adeosun’s two efforts were off target, and a shootout became necessary.
While Stulen stayed in goal for the Vikings, Chicago brought in first-year Aaron Katsimpalis, the hero of the Elite 8 shootout against Emory.
Khoury kicked first for North Park, slotting the ball to his left and sending the ‘keeper the wrong way. Abedian stepped up first for the Maroons, placing the ball right and sending Stulen the wrong way to knot things up at 1-1.
Gonzalez banged his penalty top-right, before Lopez snuck his effort under Stulen to the left to make it 2-2 after two rounds.
|Freshman Mathias Stulen makes the game-winning save to end the shootout and send North Park into the final.|
With Roseholt going top left, Stacey Reimann stepped up for Chicago to answer. His bid to the bottom left was saved by Stulen, though, and the Vikings had the upper hand with Carel Kawele stepping up to start the fourth round.
Kawele suffered the same fate as Reimann, as he had his effort to the left saved by Katsimpalis. Then Koh sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to knot things up 3-3 after four.
Warp looked to have put himself in a bad position, as Katsimpalis got a hand to his effort. However, the ball snuck under the Chicago ‘keeper and into the net, meaning Adeosun had to score to keep his team alive. The Chicago forward obliged, sending Stulen the wrong way before slotting calmly into the right. After five rounds of kicks, it would come down to sudden-death PKs.
Kicking off the extra rounds, Ricky Pimentel lined up straight on with Katsimpalis in an effort to not sell his kick. The strategy worked, as he slotted the ball into the bottom right to give the Vikings the upper hand. Isaiah Holmquist responded in kind for the Maroons, going to his right, and it was 5-5 after six.
In the seventh round, Robson stepped up, sending his effort into the top corner. Ben Brandt made it 6-6, though, sending Stulen the wrong way and going bottom left.
With fans growing anxious, the fateful round finally came. Ericsson went bottom left, placing the ball right into the corner, setting up the stage for Stulen to play the hero. He obliged, saving Renato Corghi's effort and sending his team to their first national final.
For Chicago, who made its first Final Four appearance since 1996, the crushing defeat (which counts as a tie in the record book) ends the Maroons’ season at 19-2-2. North Park, however, has a chance to add one more win—which would be the biggest of them all—to its 20-1-2 ledger when it faces Messiah tomorrow night in the national final.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin
|Other Semifinal Recaps: Men's Semifinal 1||Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2|