Submitted by the league
The biggest game of the CASA calendar came to Subaru Park on June 26.
FC SouthHouse squared off against Rose Tree Gunners FC in a vibrant atmosphere under the lights, in front of a crowd who had just seen the Philadelphia Union pull off a sensational last gasp victory against New York City FC. As the teams warmed up, the fans were sitting in their seats wondering what sort of magic CASA’s finest could conjure in such an illustrious venue.
Both teams looked to stretch each other from the kickoff. Rose Tree had some early opportunities attacking down the right and SouthHouse down the left, but neither team could find a final ball or finish to put their opponents in jeopardy. SouthHouse looked the more dangerous team in the opening exchanges, though, and one sensed it would be just a matter of time before we saw our first goal.
SouthHouse got the breakthrough in the 20th minute, when a hooked cross from the left was improperly cleared and bounced to Reece at the top of the box. Stuttering his dribble across the dee as he moved away from goal, he fired a daisy cutter toward the bottom left corner. The shot looked to catch the Rose Tree ‘keeper off guard but he got down well and pushed it wide with a strong right hand. Not strong enough, though, because Robinson snuck behind his defender, who was caught on his heels, to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
With SouthHouse having drawn the first blood, Rose Tree tried to get back into the game. Immediately they surged down the left, having built the play nicely from the back. The ensuing passage of play reminded SouthHouse what Rose Tree football is all about: patient ball movement in the middle of the field, probing moves around the box, and hard and low finishes when they get a good sight of goal. Sadly for Rose Tree, they could do all but the last move, firing over from distance four times in a row.
SouthHouse have the experience to ignore the momentum of the game and kept looking for opportunities to counter the newly crowned Palangi Cup winners. They took their chance with five minutes left in the half. When a Rose Tree attack broke down on the right hand-side of the field, SouthHouse switched the ball through the midfield with purpose to find right winger Tuvesson isolated against his fullback on their right flank. He showed courage and close control to carry the ball to the by-line and cross for Antonini, who flashed a shot at the feet of the keeper. Again, the Rose Tree ‘keeper reacted well to the snapped strike, hit with little back lift, which only gave him time to stick out a leg. Unfortunately, the ball bounced right back to Antonini, who wasn’t going to miss a second chance to score and promptly tucked the ball past the helpless keeper.
With SouthHouse up by two at the break, it was up to RoseTree to regroup and take the game to them, and they should be happy with their efforts in the second half. SouthHouse continued to have opportunities, but Rose Tree capitalized on the skills of their midfield playmakers, seeing more of the ball and creating more chances than they did in the first half.
Their goal, however, came from a striking piece of initiative from Watkins. As Rose Tree struggled to work the ball down the left side, he waited in a deep midfield position, waiting to get the ball. Finally, after the SouthHouse defense twice denied his team the chance to cross it was played back to him. The easy option would have been to switch the play and start again, but Watkins took two touches toward goal, introduced the ball to his laces, and released a rocket toward the unsuspecting SouthHouse defense from more than thirty yards out. The SouthHouse goalkeeper was either unsighted or reacted late because all he could do was wave a hand at the ball as it crossed the line. The Rose Tree bench promptly exploded: they were back in the game with twenty-five minutes left to play.
The final stages of this game were somewhat cagey as SouthHouse guarded their lead and Rose Tree pushed for a goal while protecting against the counter. One moment could have changed it all, though, when Rose Tree were awarded a penalty. Rose Tree again attacked down the right wing, their man cutting hard toward goal and heading for the near post. The defender clipped him the attacker but couldn’t stop him, only for the keeper to bring him down without winning the ball. With two incidents to choose from, the referee had no choice to point to the spot. All the pressure was on the kicker, and it proved too much as he fired wide left to drain Rose Tree of their hopes of tying things up. With minutes left in the match, SouthHouse showed resolve to see out the game and bring home a third Kelly Cup.
After the match, this reporter caught up with both captains to get their reactions. Rose Tree captain Giovanopoulos began by congratulating SouthHouse, who he acknowledged were more deadly in the final third and deserved to win the match. He lamented the missed penalty and couldn’t help but wonder if a conversion might have changed the course of the game, but ultimately had no complaints about his team’s application on the night. He closed by thanking his players for their efforts, having turned a negative record at the start of the season into two finals and a Palangi League Cup trophy. Joking that his side were no longer the new kids on the block, he said he was pleased that his team had earned the respect of their peers despite the loss in the final of the Kelly Cup. As always, his final words were: “Up the gun.”
Trueman was ecstatic after the match as we tried to speak to him. Even though our interview was interrupted by his team dumping a cooler of ice over him, it was plain to see how much this meant to Trueman and his team, who were a picture of joy as they raised the cup. Once he’d dried off, Trueman hailed an excellent battle between two sides who both gave great accounts of themselves on the night. He was pleased that their plan to gift Rose Tree the ball in deeper areas, deny them in the final third, and then hit them on the counter had paid off. Although he admitted a hint of fortune that Rose Tree had not converted their penalty, he was proud of his lads for dialing in when it counted to deny the Gunners a tying goal. He closed by congratulating his opponents both on an classic match and for the great strides they’ve made in a short period of time.
FC SouthHouse: GOALS – Robinson, Antonini
Rose Tree Gunners FC: GOAL – Watkins
MAN OF THE MATCH – Robinson: FC SouthHouse