Written by Eric Anderson
Sonoma County Sol 4, St. Paul Twin Stars 1
After two straight years of losing in the NPSL semifinals — and a semifinal loss in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Open Cup last week in Florida — the West champion Sol powered into the championship game behind an impressive attack.
“You lost that first time, it’s like, ‘We’ve got to get back there again.’ Then you get back again and you lose again,” said Sonoma County’s Trevor Hurst, who had a goal and an assist along with fellow forward Eric Lafon. “It’s been on our mind the last three years.”
Hurst and Lafon found plenty of space to manuever on the flanks in the Sol’s 4-3-3 formation. Midfielder Andrew Bailey created the first goal in the 12th, taking the ball away from a Twin Stars defender on the left side and squaring it back to a wide-open Hurst to finish against St. Paul keeper Jules Alex Nyom.
Hurst was the provider on Lafon’s highlight-reel goal 17 minutes later, as he broke free on the right side and fired in a cross. Lafon made a late run to the far post, went up into the air and somehow managed to volley the ball past Nyom.
“At first, I thought it was going out,” Hurst said of his service. “We always know there’s back-post runners, but I was not expecting him to put it in. I was like, ‘He’s going to hit it off the post.’ … I was amazed. I went over to him and I was like, ‘How did you put that in?’ “
“I saw my defender kind of sleeping at the back post, and I was hoping (Hurst) could get it behind him so I could get a chance,” said Lafon, who has been among the team leaders in goals in his first season with the Sol. “It was a tight angle. I was just hoping not to mess it up.”
Nyom held Sonoma County — the league’s top-scoring team — at bay by making five saves in an impressive first half, and Richard Kamara got the Twin Stars (5-3-1) back into the match with a stellar goal of his own. The defender controlled the ball about 35 yards out on the left side in the 45th minute and let loose with a drive, and his blast beat Sol keeper Juan Sosa to the upper left corner.
“That kind of shook us a little bit,” Hurst said, “and then they came out firing in the second half.”
Indeed, Midwest champion St. Paul made five changes at halftime and switched from a 4-5-1 into a 4-3-3 — though one of the changes was forced as Kamara suffered a hamstring injury on his long-range goal — and last year’s NPSL runners-up made things interesting early in the second half.
But the 63rd minute proved to be a turning point.
Twin Stars midfielder Jean Viardin received a yellow card for a tackle and another for dissent and was sent off. St. Paul coach Youssef Darbaki said the card for dissent was a matter of a misunderstanding — he said Viardin pointed to his head and/or eyes in an attempt to ask an official if he saw the play, but the official interpreted the motion as an obscene gesture.
“The red card really killed us,” said Darbaki, who added that he had a substitute ready to go and was moments away from taking Viardin off. “After that, it really wasn’t our day.”
The Sol finished off the victory by scoring twice in a 4-minute span. Shawn Percell‘s conversion in the 76th gave all three of Sonoma County’s starting forwards a goal on the night, and substitute Tyler Hurst headed in Lafon’s free kick in the 80th.
|Sonoma County Sol||2||2
|St. Paul Twin Stars||1||0
Sonoma County Sol — Trevor Hurst (Andrew Bailey) 12
Sonoma County Sol — Eric Lafon (Trevor Hurst) 29
St. Paul Twin Stars — Richard Kamara 45
Sonoma County Sol — Shawn Percell (Christopher Daly) 76
Sonoma County Sol — Tyler Hurst (Eric Lafon) 80
SONOMA COUNTY SOL: Juan Sosa; Mickey Daly, Adam Shields, Scott Preckwinkle (Norm Crochetiere 59), Lee Sandwina; Eric Larsen (Steven Browne 46), Christopher Daly, Andrew Bailey (Tyler Hurst 59); Trevor Hurst (Mike Nikol 81), Shawn Percell (Tim Maycock 78), Eric Lafon.
ST. PAUL TWIN STARS: Jules Alex Nyom; Richard Kamara (Pedro Amusu 46, John Matacjek 78), Anthony Keller, Juan Fiz, Phong Vang; Adama Diawara, Edi Burs (Karim Darbaki 46), Igor Stosic, Kelly Masango (Greg Rosenthal 46), Isaac Kannah (Jean Viardin 34); Keido Pour (Karmil Solarim 46).
Saves: SCS (Sosa) 3; SPTS (Nyom) 8. Shots: SCS 20, SPTS 11. Corner kicks:SCS 1, SPTS 4. Fouls: SCS 9, SPTS 12. Offsides: SCS 2, SPTS 2. Discipline:SCS — Daly (38, caution); SPTS — Kamara (19, caution), Darbaki (55, caution), Viardin (63, caution), Viardin (63, caution), Viardin (63, ejection, second caution), Diawara (90, caution).
From the touchline
Erie’s roster includes eight Englishmen, two Canadians, one Irishman and Latifi from Kosovo. … Admirals captain Luke Brookfield is from near Liverpool, England, and his father and brother flew in for the Final Four. … Sonoma County’s loss in the USASA Open Cup last Friday was to Milwaukee’s Bavarian SC 2-1. Bavarian SC went on to win the title. … The previous NPSL champions are Detroit Arsenal (2005), the Sacramento Knights (2006), the Southern California Fusion (2007) and Pennsylvania Stoners (2008). Of those four, only the Stoners are still in the league. … The Sol lost to Detroit Arsenal 1-0 in the 2005 championship game. … Saturday’s game will be the second NPSL final played at Breese — Sacramento posted a 2-0 victory over the Princeton 56ers (now known as the Madison 56ers) in the 2006 championship game.