ENRICO Del Rosario of the CNMI was one game away from competing in his second championship in the Ohio Valley Premier League, but he and his team, Northern Kentucky Nitro, could not find the game-winning shot to defeat the Evansville Legends in the division finals, and had to settle for a draw Sunday at the Town & Country Soccer Complex in Kentucky.
The Evansville Legends were the first to draw blood as they turned defense into offense, using a long lob pass to get ahead of Nitro’s defense and finish the transition play to gain the lead 1-0 right before the 10-minute mark.
The Legends did not stop there as three minutes later, they struck again, this time with a smooth midrange shot that was high enough to get over Nitro’s goalie to extend the deficit 2-0.
But Nitro proved to be resilient. After countless attempts, they were rewarded with a goal in the 38th minute thanks to Andrej Novakovic's well-placed pass which found Kalu Abass deep in enemy territory. Abass soon found the back of the net to reduce the deficit, 1-2.
In the second half, Nitro simply played harder, allowing Manny Adjeito set up a great cross pass which Abass finished with a header to tie the game, 2-2.
Nitro, however, needed three goals to qualify for the finals.
“Being one goal short is something that definitely hurts,” said Nitro’s head coach Sean Eubanks. “We started poorly, and conceded twice in the first 13 minutes. We fought hard to pull it back to 2-2 off of two Kalu Abass' goals, but it wasn’t enough.”
He added, “We had plenty of chances to take the lead, but with a couple of unlucky shots and also some great saves by the Evansville GK, we felt short.”
He noted that Enrico Del Rosario would have made history if Nitro won the division finals and then the league championship as he would have been the first Ohio Valley Premier League player to win two championships with two different teams.
“I definitely feel upset, getting that close to the championship and not winning is heartbreaking for sure,” Del Rosario said. “We worked hard this whole season and we were hungry to get the championship this summer after not doing too well in the spring. Now I’m just looking forward to the next season and hopefully our resilience will result in a championship.”
Nitro will compete in the Steel City Super Cup starting on July 31 and will face three other teams for the title.
“The Steel City Super Cup will be a fun experience,” Eubanks said. “We will be missing quite a few of our players, but still have a chance to win as long as we can put together a strong defense. We couldn’t even have had our season without the support of our sponsor Martin Trunnion Tables, the support of the fans on each match day, and of course the support of our CNMI friends.”