The first ever UPSL Georgia Regional Cup Final was going to be decided by a Limeño Derby. Premier Division’s Limeño Georgia would face up against Limeño U20 in a match that would decide the Cup title for 2022 Spring. The road for both teams turned out to be a very entertaining and telling path to the Final.
Limeño Georgia’s path to the final included a strong 7-1 victory against a very young LGSA U17, a 2-2 draw with a FC Matata squad returning back to the Georgia Premier Division after one season off. Then Limeño finally clenched a final appearance with a 3-0 victory over a strong Augusta United FC team which would earn them as favorites in the finals for the cup title.
Limeño U20, which is an academy of Limeño Georgia, had an impressive path to the final as a division 1 team. It was always going to be difficult to progress in a group with 2 Premier Division teams in it, but the young U20s from Limeño did just that. First came a 3-2 victory over new, fellow division 1 team, Pre-College DA where they had to hang on for victory. Then a shock, upset victory over newly promoted Premier Division team, Club The Strongest Atlanta by the score of 5-2. Lastly, ending their group games with a 0-0 draw with another Premier Division team, Potros FC.
So, a great advertisement for the Limeño soccer academy that both the cup finalist hail from the same coaching sources and academy. But what kind of cup final will this produce? The U20s will want to impress and influence their stock for the 1st team and the Premier side will want to show they are 1st team for a reason. So bragging rights will drive this encounter on the day to round out preparations for the Spring 2022 UPSL season.
The match started with a typical sparring between the 2 sides as each waited for the other to settle. This created a sort of stalemate early on as neither side grabbed the advantage and much of the play ended up in the middle of the park. This played well for the underdog U20s who kept things even with possibly an idea to hit hard on the break.
Limeño Georgia began to get more of the possession as the half went on but could not break down the resilience of the U20s back line defenders. But that doesn’t mean that the U20s were hanging on. The U20s had their own serious attacking threats and came close to scoring on a few occasions. Despite this entertaining back and forth, neither team could score, and the teams went into the half still at 0-0.
The 2nd half would bring about the breakthrough that would change the match. The back and forth from the first half continued in the 2nd with the Premier Side getting the better possession. The U20 still were battling toe-to-toe for their own foot hold in the match but the first goal would come on 63 minutes for the Premier division side.
In a magnificent move, Geo Rios collected a long clearance in the midfield then worked his way up the left side carving his way toward center. Rios then played a one-two pass with Marcos Tobar who laid the return pass back to Rios which gave him an opportunity to blast home past the keeper for a 1-0 lead in the match. It would be the breakthrough that changed the match.
Now the urgency would be with the U20s who had to step up their attacking game to try to get back in the match. The chances did come for the U20s but the finishing didn’t. Coming close on a number of occasions brought promises of an equalizer, but Limeño would hold firm in defense. Then somewhat of a back breaker came on 87 minutes.
After good approach play from Saul Tinoco, a through pass to Mateo Alverado produced a shot what elicited a good save from the U20 keeper, but his parry ended up in the path of Gio Rios who again slotted home to give Limeño Georgia the insurance goal and a 2-0 lead very late in the match.
Now, the U20s could only hope for a late consultation after a great effort on the day, but it would be Limeño Georgia with the final clincher deep in added on time and it would be a beauty. The move started with Alexis Aguilar in possession who squared a ball to Geo Rios. Rios quickly saw Saul Tinoco loosely marked and put in a through ball which resulting in Tinoco curling a shot from distance into the top right corner for the 3-0 lead for Limeño. It would be the goal of the match from Tinoco fed in by Man-of-the-Match, Geo Rios.
The whistle would then blow shortly afterward, and Limeño Georgia would celebrate a historic Cup victory as the first ever UPSL Georgia Regional Cup Champion. However, it’s also a statement from Limeño Soccer Academy that their 2 team bested all others to earn an opportunity to play for the Cup title setting an example for other teams in both divisions.
There will be another Regional Cup in the summer for this intra-season competition. This Cup gives teams a chance to prepare for the regular season in a higher pressure and competitive way than just with pre-season friendlies. The competition also gives new and interested teams a chance to match playing talent with teams they will soon compete against in the regular season.
Next up for all 8 teams that competed in this competition is the start of both the Premier Division and Division 1 seasons on March 26.