Usually, after the regular season would end, the first-place teams of the coastal division and the Plymouth division (teams from San Diego County) would go head-to-head to be SoCal champions. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, the Plymouth division didn’t play enough games or have enough teams to satisfy the 8-game minimum according to the WPSL rules. So, for this occasion, both top two teams from the coastal division would compete in a final match to earn the title. Those two teams would be SoCal Union and LA Surf.
LA Surf and SoCal Union would meet for the second time this year. LA Surf took three points from SoCal Union in a 3-0 win June 19. Both teams would end the regular season relatively close to one another. LA Surf ended up in first place with 17 points, a 5-2-1 record, and a goal difference of +16. Meanwhile, SoCal Union placed in second with 16 points and a 5-1-2 record with a goal difference of +9. LA Surf would have the better form coming into the match as they had a 3-game winning streak, scoring nine goals, and allowing two. For the Union, they were on a 2-game winning streak, scoring six and allowing just one goal.
Last weekend, at La Canada High School, the hosts LA Surf and SoCal Union were set to kick off the Coastal division final. During the first couple of minutes, Surf was more physical and winning standing tackles. They also retained more possession while SoCal Union played the counterattack with long balls to their forwards. Afterward, SoCal Union applied offensive pressure, forcing LA Surf not to complete their passes. It would be back and forth for both teams, getting chances but nothing going in the back of the net.
The deadlock would break in the 31st minute when SoCal Union scored the opening goal. It was a slant pass to the left wing where the forward beat the defender on the run and placed it past the keeper for a Union lead. The crowd would celebrate loudly as it appeared to be more Union fans in the stands. But then, seconds later, LA would score one right back. They got a cross in the box to their forward, then headed it to a teammate alone in the half-circle, and she sent it home to tie the game. Roughly two minutes later, Union would retake the lead. It came from a lob pass, and the forward timed the bouncing ball and struck it to make it 2-1 for the Murrieta team. Afterward, the visitors continued to look like the better team; they prevented Surf’s crosses, winning more stand tackles, and transitioning those turnovers into counterattacks. They would do this till the half was over.
The second half would start with Surf getting a critical free kick just outside the box. The Surf player shoots it low to the right of the wall and the keeper on the edge of the right post to level the game again. Now both teams were playing riskier. LA Surf would make chances from triangle passes on the left side, but overall, both teams were attacking each others left flank, forcing turnovers, and transitioning to quick attacks. Both teams were also getting chances from defensive clearances to beat the other with timing the bouncing ball.
In the 67th minute, Surf would get the lead for the first time in the game from a pass outside of the half-circle when the forward tucked it in the right corner pocket of the net to take the lead. The intensity increased as Union looked to get one back, with Surf looking for the insurance goal. The visitors were coming close, penetrating the left side to get a cross into the box, but Surf was there to prevent the cross to clear it out of danger. Finally, in the 87th minute, SoCal got the ball back after a poor clearance in the box. The player on the right edge of the box sent a cross in the box but was cleared out to a lone Union player in the half-circle. She sets up to the right, shoots the ball into oncoming traffic, and gets a clutch goal to tie the game before stoppage time. The referee would blow the whistle to end regulation, and both sides rested for extra time. The goal scorers for Union would be Marissa Levine, Marley Canales, and Mackenzie Akins.
Despite 90 minutes passing by, the first and second extra periods saw the same intensity as regulation time and didn’t seem to slow down at all. Both teams went back and forth with one chance for Surf missing an open net after a keeper deflection. The Surf and Union continued with their lob and ran plays giving their all to win, but it finally came to penalties after 30 minutes of extra time. The penalties would favor the home team; despite the first shot getting blocked, they tallied 3 while Union didn’t convert any penalties, with their first one going wide and the Surf keeper blocking the other 2. The IE team would console their keeper as Surf was crowned SoCal coastal champions in a very competitive and exciting game that could have gone either way. Union will have to wait till next season if they want to see glory. Salvador Torres contributed to this article.
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