By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The great season by the Capital FC Athletica squad has landed the squad in the Northwest Preimer League Championship Game following their 3-1 victory over Yakima United Sunday afternoon at the CFC Facility off of State Street.
“Oh it’s such a great feeling, especially with this team because we all love playing soccer and we all love playing together so it’ll be great to play in the Finals together,” said goalie Abby Knoll.
The love of the sport, and playing in front of their home crowd for one last time, Athletica struck first in the opening minutes of the match of the radiating heat coming from the turf field below their cleats. The 1-0 advantage held through the first water break timeout before United knotted it up at 1in the 28th minute.
The match was as even as you hoped through the first 45 with both squads having opportunities with runs before being halted by the other’s defense with a chance to play in the Finals next against the Seattle Stars on the road.
The Stars, who played slightly later than the CFC Athletica-Yakima United game, ended with a 1-0 result in favor of Seattle over the Washington Timbers FC Sunday evening.
In their third season, and second in the NWPL, the 1-1 stalemate didn’t take long as Paige Alexander took advantage of a through ball and struck goal to put Capital FC back in front in the 37th minute. By halftime a few minutes later, the 2-1 lead remained intact for CFC Athletica entering the second half.
“We needed that push, we needed to be ahead heading into the half. We needed that confidence to push through and get Vicky (Cruz) that goal, to keep our backline strong,” said Alexander of the goal. “It was a very big motivation for us to stay composed and keep us strict how far we let their forwards go. It was very crucial for us to go in with a lead.”
Entering the second half the motivation was there for Capital FC stemming from that goal. Defense limited how far the United forwards and attacking midfielders went and it translated into the aggressive push offensively.
Athletica had roughly four opportunities to add to their lead heading into the water break midway through the second half that came up just that short from possibly tearing the game open entering the final 20 or so minutes of the game.
And those stops by Yakima United’s backline had seem to neutralized the momentum that CFC Athletica had coming out for the second half as both teams came out from the final water break of the day.
It took a few minutes, but the United offensive front were on the heels of tying the game up. Knoll made a grazing save in the 80th minute off a corner kick. A shot bounced off the top left corner of the goal a minute later.
Yakima had another crack at tying it in the 88th minute. No luck as the defensive prowess of the Capital FC made sure their slim margin stayed that way.
“We just had to stay disciplined and keep playing in the back like we know how,” said Knoll. “We worked hard all week in practice on defensive possession, so we just tried to do what we knew what to do.”
They entered the stoppage time with four minutes of extra time added and the CFC Athletica squad didn’t wait long as Cruz gets a close-range shot to go in during the 92nd minute to all but ice the 3-1 victory to push CFC Athletica to the Final Round of play.
“It was so sweet just to know that sercutiy to have that two-up, 3-1 lead,” starts Alexander, who exited the game in the closing moments of the game. “It felt amazing to not be so on our toes, we had legincy and we had time to relax. We had a goal to give unlike we had before, I was so relieved that she scored that
Photos By Jeremy McDonald