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.
The slim hope for Club The Strongest ATL to advanced to the Cup Final were dashed earlier in the day when Limeño U20 drew with Potros FC giving them the Group B title on 7 points. Even a win by The Strongest would not get them on in the Cup due to a shock 2nd group week loss to division 1 opponent, Limeño U20 the previous week. A loss that proved to be costly to The Strongest in the competition.
But there was still the matter of getting prepped for the Spring season. The Strongest ATL is one of the promoted teams from division 1 to the Georgia Premier Division and can take advantage of all the opportunities this brings to a club like this.
Pre-College DA were are in a similar boat as fellow division 1 colleagues LGSA U17 in that they are in no position to challenge for a Group title, but still were in full preparation mode for the season with players playing for their places and also an opportunity to perform a “Giant Killing” against Premier Division opposition.
There would be watching eyes on Eleven Sports Network from Bolivia in South America where the legendary team Club The Strongest is based. The Atlantic Soccer Media Group were broadcasting this game live as their “Focus Match of the Week” so the festivities began for an exciting match of soccer.
Pre-College DA got us underway and right away you could see that both teams came in with a high energy approach as the pace of the match was quick from kick off. Pre-College, a team out of Augusta and part of the Augusta United FC club, had players that were wanting to impress to put themselves in contention for a Premier Division spot on the senior team. This may have been an influence as the early minutes belonged to Pre-College as they probed early for a possibly quick advantage.
The Strongest ATL held “strong” however and Pre-College’s early advantage was quelled and The Strongest ATL then got on top in the game. A sort of sparring back and forth continued from there until the 32nd minute when The Strongest ATL broke the deadlock.
Good approach from the right wing produced a low cross to unmarked Sam Roe in the middle of the box and he made no mistake as he put the ball in the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage to Club The Strongest ATL.
Just 5 minutes later, The Strongest wrestled possession from Pre-College in the midfield and after a couple of passes, found Krishna Clarke just outside the penalty area who turned, lost his defender, and drove a powerful low shot past the goal keeper and into the bottle left far corner of the net. 2-0 now and The Strongest ATL growing in control and confidence.
A third for The Strongest ATL was a moment of brilliance as a short pass to Krishna Clarke in the box was redirected by Clarke with a back heel shot. The back heel deceived his defender and the Pre-College keeper and the ball rolled in for 3-0 lead right on the stroke of half time.
In the second half, The Strongest’s dominance continued when on 48 minutes, Sam Roe got his 2nd and The Strongest’s 4th when a hard low cross from the right wing found Roe in the middle of the box, again, unmarked and was able to hammer home a 4th for The Strongest ATL.
Later in the half, Roe would complete a hat-trick for himself when he scored The Strongest ATL’s fifth. A long cross to the right side of the field lead to Roe making space for himself to receive a pass from which he one timed to the far post and into the back of the net. This made the score 5-0 and put the competitive phase of the game to rest, but Pre-College still had something to say in the match.
In the dying minutes of the game, Pre-College were still pressing for something out of this match and on 82 minutes, they would get it. Addison Keja found himself in possession just inside the final attacking third and took a shot toward goal that seemed more of a hope and prayer than having a chance. However the ball came in awkwardly for The Strongest keeper and he got it all wrong when trying to collect the ball and fumbled it into his own net.
This gave the consolation goal that Pre-College DA was looking for toward the end of the match. But that would be it as Club The Strongest ATL ran out 5-1 winners to close out their first ever Georgia Regional Cup competition in 2nd place in the Group. Next for each of these clubs will be the marathon that is the UPSL Spring Season to commence on March 26th.
The second game of the day in the 2022 Spring Georgia Regional Cup would pit Premier Division’s Potros FC against Division 1 opposition, Limeño U20. Already with a Premier division team scalp taken after a shock victory over Club The Strongest ATL and a 1st group week victory over new boys Pre-College DA, Limeño U20 were in the driver’s seat needing only a draw to advance to the final.
Potros on the other hand were in a must-win situation sitting on 3 points after 2 games and needing to win today and hope that a goal difference advantage would give them the edge to get on to the Final pending other results.
When crunch time comes for teams in a Cup competition like this one, nerves can affect play. Hesitation and desire not to make mistakes can curb attacking instincts and for these clubs there might have been a bit of that as play started.
Early on, it was Limeño U20 with the bulk of possession though there was no early threat on the Potros goal. For Potros, they seemed to wait for their moment, soaking up the pressure and carefully looking for an opening to take possession and punch through to threaten the U20 side.
This cat and mouse continued through the 1st half and the game stayed level at 0-0 as the half-time whistle blew. The 2nd half would be similar but the urgency would become apparent, especially for Potros.
Potros got us kicked off for the 2nd half and immediately pushed forward in an attempt impose themselves on Limeño U20 and possibly grab an early 2nd half goal. But try as they might, they just could not put together a cohesive attack to take advantage of their new attacking surge in the half.
The U20s looked to be content to now soak up the pressure and hit Potros on the break knowing that a draw would be enough for them. This proved to be an effective tactic as the half drew on and Potros became more desperate to make the breakthrough.
Both teams came close to scoring at times in the half and the neutral would have thought that a single goal would be the decider in a toe to toe match like this.
Time was not on Potros side and the lack of a decisive attacking punch doomed them to share a point on the day as time ran out and the match ended scoreless confirming Limeño U20 as the group winner on 7 points. Limeño U20 now have confirmed their place in the Georgia Regional Cup Final to be played on March 5th at the same venue, South Gwinnett Park in Snellville Georgia, 3:00PM.
It was am impressive run for Limeño U20 getting results against 2 Premier Division teams and a decisive victory over another division 1 team. Now the chance to go on and possibly make history in the UPSL by challenging for the 1st ever Georgia Regional Cup trophy and doing so as a division 1 team. The term “Giant Killer” would be appropriate here if they were to pull off the upset.
Pre-College Development Academy is another new entry for the UPSL Georgia Division 1 for the Spring 2022 season. This academy is linked to Augusta United FC who play in the Premier Division. The academy team shares the same football philosophy and also acts as a feeder team to the Premier team so you will see the same style of play when watching either of the Augusta teams.
Pre-College is facing Premier Division side Potros FC who are becoming well established in the UPSL in Georgia and look to improve on results from the last season when they narrowly missed qualifying for the division playoffs. The Regional Cup is a chance for them to work on getting up to speed before the regular season kicks off on March 26th.
Both of these teams came into this match wanting to mix success in the group stage and at the same time test out new talent and newly signed players which will require a balanced approach to this game. Potros FC’s manager, Christopher Uranga, was officially presented with the Manager of the Season award for his work as a club manager in the Fall season and now would turn around to get ready again for action in the league for the Spring.
Pre-College got us underway but it was Potros FC who were the first to take control of the match as they worked to possess and press forward and within 40 seconds, found themselves in the penalty area on the first move forward. The Potros attacker had alluded a defensive player in the box but was then challenged by the Pre-College keeper who took out the man instead of the ball earning Potros FC an early penalty call.
Manuel Carrillo took the responsibility to take the penalty and expertly converted to the upper left as he blasted Potros FC into the lead in the 1st minute of play. Potros kept themselves flying with 2 more goals in the half, one from Sebastian Montero on 27 minutes and then shortly later from Augusto Del Río to take Potros to a commanding 3-0 after just 31 minutes of play. Pre-College had not really gotten a foot hold in the game yet but that would soon change.
On 36 minutes, Pre-College’s Oliver Mecardo scored largely against the run of play after good approach play. He was given space by the Potros defenders and took full advantage to take his shot and score putting Pre-College back in it at 3-1 in the first half. And that’s how they went into the half.
The second half was a different story. The Pre-College head coach, Bryce Cooper, made adjustments for his squad at halftime and it’s effect was immediate as the 2nd half kicked off. It was now Pre-College with the lion’s share of possession and Potros was on the back foot. This new found pressure from Pre-College paid dividends on 63 minutes when a penalty call allowed Mecardo to step up and bury his and Pre-College’s 2nd to bring the score to 3-2 and create virtually a new game.
Pre-College continued to dominate the half getting more chances on goal, but at the moment, Potros was holding on just enough to keep the advantage. As time dwindled and we reached added time, Potros found a clincher when another penalty call gave Jair Lopez Figueroa a chance to convert which he took successfully to restore the 2 goal lead at 4-2.
Good thing that Potros did get that goal because a minute later, Pre-College were on the score sheet again very deep in extra time. Pre-College still had energy in the tank and pushed hard as anticipation of the final whistle was looming. A long ball in to the left of Potros penalty area found the winger who had skillfully gotten behind the Potros full back and one timed the ball to Brayden Martinez who was given space for a free header and a 3rd goal for Pre-College.
That would be the end of scoring as time then expired a short time later. Potros had held on to put themselves in serious contention to win the group while Pre-College DA will feel hard done by not to get something out of the result.
With one match week left in the group stages, all games next week are a must win for the top 3 in the group. So the intensity will be there to advance on to the Final match on March 5th.
Division One’s Limeño U20 shot to the top of Group B of the 2022 UPSL Georgia Regional Cup after a comprehensive, upset victory over newly promoted Premier Division side, Club The Strongest ATL. Both teams came into this match after 1st week wins in the group to put them in prime position to challenge for 1st place in the group. Winning the group will qualify them for the Regional Cup Final set for March 5th.
Right from the kick off, Limeño U20 took charge with the majority of possession which game them more opportunity to threaten in the attack. This early control allowed them the first breakthrough in the match when The Strongest lost possession that contributed to a clean counter attack from Limeño U20. This attack found Christian Suazo running past The Strongest back line defenders where he slotted home for an early 1-0 lead in the first half.
A 2nd goal from Suazo followed close to the half time break on an eerily similar break only this time, Suazo latched on to a long clearance from his goalkeeper and then proceeded to beat 2 Strongest defenders and the keeper after gaining control of the long ball directed toward goal.
Limeño U20 went into the break leading 2-0 and would extend that lead 69 minutes into the 2nd half. A penalty call by referee Ethan Bruns led to Oscar Avila confidently converting to give the Division 1 side a shock 3-0 lead. The Strongest, up to this point, had yet to show any conviction to start to chip away at that lead but just 3 minutes later The Strongest would do just that.
Another penalty call, this time for the benefit of The Strongest gave the opportunity for a turnaround from the spot. Krishna Clarke stepped up and fired an unstoppable shot into the top right of the goal to grab a goal back for The Strongest.
Though this brought the score to 3-1, Limeno did not look to relinquish control of the match and on 83 minutes it got worse for The Strongest. A long freekick arched it’s way into the box where an unmarked Oscar Avila was allowed room and space from The Strongest defenders who in this case had a wooden quality about them. Avila simply fired a low shot under the keeper for his 2nd on the day and a commanding 4-1 lead for Limeño U20 with virtually no time left for The Strongest.
Limeño U20 cemented their dominance with a 5th goal just a minute after the penalty from Clarke almost directly from the restart. A long past forward found a U20 winger on the right side of the box who one timed a low cross to a waiting Oscar Avila who tapped in his hattrick while all alone in the 6 yard box with The Strongest defenders all looking at each other in a bit of shock.
An end to an unusual match and one of the biggest upsets of the day with Limeño U20 now taking an important lead in Group B with only one more game in the group stage. The Strongest still have an opportunity but will need help from Potros FC next week and win their own game again Pre-College DA in order to have any chance at winning the group.
Another new comer to the UPSL in this Cup competition is Pre-College Development Academy out of Augusta Georgia. This team is focused on providing a pathway for serious players looking for a professional career.
Part of the Augusta United Football Club, they, like Limeño GA U20, are feeder clubs for their Premier Division’s parent teams. It’s a chance for these players shine in such a way as to be called up to the first team if they impress.
Without the qualifications to actually be promoted in the regular season from Division 1 to the Premier Division, this Regional Cup is another way for them to prove themselves and gain honors in the UPSL. It’s also an avenue for both teams to test their new young talent to see if they will fit for the long haul of a UPSL regular season.
These teams seemed evenly matched as they kicked off. Early sparring back and forth would see Limeño U20 with the first breakthrough on 4 minutes after a mistake by the Pre-College goalkeeper. The keeper failed in his attempt to connect with his defender on a clearance gifting possession to Anguel Gueyara who made no mistake as he slotted home from just inside the penalty area for an early 1-0 lead to Limeño.
The play remained tight as both sides made probing attacks in the first half. Oscar Argueta made it 2-0 when he was played through with a leading pass eventually beating the keeper to the ball, controlling the deflection and driving a low shot into the back of the net to widen the Limeño advantage on 16 minutes.
A mere 2 minutes later however, Pre-College finally got the break they needed. A foul outside the box gave Niall Monahan a chance to make an impact and an impact he made with one of the goals of the weekend. Monahan curled a free kick in from long distance, beating both the wall and a diving keeper to half the Limeño lead at 2-1.
Unfortunately, the hustle of the Limeño front line attack, spear-headed by Oscar Argueta, won Limeño a penalty on 21 minutes when the keeper came for ball but unfortunately ended up taking out the Limeño player. The spot kick was dutifully executed by Argueta for a 3-1 first half lead to Limeño.
After the break, the back and forth continued with each side having their moments of effective attack and counter attacks. The battle produced another creative gem, this time from Pre-College. Nicholas Cenek grabbed possession of the ball in the final third and with a great individual effort, dribbled and beat several defenders before turning and blasting across goal. The shot beat the keeper and got a goal back for Pre-College to put the score at 3-2.
That would be the final score-line for the match as a stalemate was the result of the rest of the match as Limeño successfully saw out the victory to go joint top of Group B along with Club The Strongest ATL after one match day in the Cup.
While technically a warm-up tournament for the coming 2022 Spring season in the UPSL, there are honors and prizes at stake for those that excel in this Cup competition. The need to balance and evaluate talent and at the same time play to win can be a challenge at any level. Teams have a need to build momentum and chemistry before a ball is kicked in anger in the Georgia Divisions regular season.
Both Potros FC and Club The Strongest ATL know the equation and will have to balance all these factors to get something out of the Cup as well as get ready for action in the regular season.
On paper, this is an interesting match up with newly promoted team Club The Strongest ATL already known as a very skillful team matching up with a steadily improving team in Potros that narrowly missed the division playoffs last season. Potros have consolidated and built and planned in the off season to make a splash in the Spring and a stern test of their efforts will be made today against the Bolivians on the day.
The Strongest had the advantage in possession in the first half and it paid off for them as they struck early with a wonderful goal from Sam Rowe that was soon matched by a Potros minutes later with a driving attack ending in an equalizer by Manuel Carrillo. At this point, the score was a fair assessment of how even the teams were playing up to that point.
Late in the half, The Strongest struck again through Carlos Servellan and their dominance in possession was starting to be the difference in the game with Potros having moments of chances but not threatening enough to get another breakthrough.
After the break, The Strongest continued to threaten but Potros started to get more into the match but still only just missing with chances but getting close. But then The Strongest hit another on a mini-break to stretch their lead to 3-1 from Mohammed Konate. That goal gave The Strongest the first bit of cushion in the match.
On 77 minutes, a foul just outside the box gave Potros a sliver of hope with a good position for a free kick. Manuel Carrillo stepped up and blasted in a magnificent free kick over the wall and beyond the diving reach of The Strongest goal keeper for his and Potros’ 2nd for a 4-2 score.
Potros had a number of other chances in the closing minutes, but The Strongest held strong and the match emptied out with The Strongest going top of Group B with a 4-2 win as both teams now prepare for match week 2 next weekend.