The Lions have clenched a Playoff spot!
Lions are Playoff bound!
Second appearance in team history
by Jonny Brown
St Louis, MO – For the first time since 2007, and only the second team in the organization’s nine-year existence, the St Louis Lions are heading to the United Soccer Leagues PDL playoffs! Two wins in Faribault, Minnesota against Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, respectively, secured the runners up spot in the Heartland Division with one regular season game remaining. The Lions will compete in the Central Conference Championships at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, IA at the home of the Des Moines Menace with a 4.30pm game on Friday 25th of July against an opponent yet to be decided.
The team headed north on Monday, only hours after returning with a point from Division champions Des Moines, knowing that they held their destiny in their own hands. Win both games and they were in regardless of other results but lose to Thunder Bay and it was all over for another year. First up, was a match up against longtime foe the Chill who were looking to extend their record of reaching the playoffs for seven consecutive years. They were not to make it eight as they ran into a St Louis team who were ready from the first whistle. Throughout the opening 45 minutes, the Lions were the stronger team but couldn’t capitalize on any of their opportunities. As the second half wore on, the Chill began to show their experience by taking hold of the game. Lions keeper Iain McTurk pulled off a couple of quality saves to keep the score at 0-0. With a little over seven minutes left, the Lions got the all-important breakthrough. After wasting a golden chance minutes earlier when left in a one-on-one with Chill goalkeeper Daniel Alvarado, Jai Maw took advantage of some hesitant defending to lift a shot over the keeper and two defenders to give the Lions the goal they needed to eliminate the Chill from play-off contention. The final whistle saw jubilant celebrations from the players and staff as they realized what a big win that was. A special mention to the Thunder Bay Chill, and in particular their captain Nolan Intermoia, who showed nothing but class in defeat. This showed why they are one of the best organizations in the PDL.
Wednesday’s game saw a matchup with WSA Winnipeg, who came looking to avenge a 4-2 defeat in Winnipeg in early June. However, the Lions started the game off brighter and had an urge to put the game away early. Greg Kranz, Steve McAnany, and Carson Pryor all passed up excellent scoring chances to keep the game tied midway through the second half. However, within two minutes, they found the opening goal as Chris Matthews instinctively stepped in to intercept a Winnipeg through ball on the half way line before laying the ball off to McAnany in the centre circle. The midfielder took a touch before placing a perfect pass into the forward run of Garbhan Grant. The Irishman took one touch before calmly lifting the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net for what was a very well taken goal. Just five minutes before half-time, the lead was doubled as McAnany spread the play out to the left hand side where captain Jonny Brown controlled the ball on his chest, moved forward and fired a low left foot cross across the box where Carson Pryor took a touch and slotted the ball under goalie Lucas Del Grosso to give the Lions a lead they would never give up. Jake Cawsey had only been on the field for three minutes when he put the Lions further ahead as in the 71st minute Del Grosso miss-judged a cross from Vadim Cojocov and the ball fortuitously bounced off Cawsey and into the back of the net. Despite the lucky finish, the goal was the end product of a move that saw over 15 passes strung together with almost every player touching the ball! WSA pulled one back when the impressive Moses Danto collected a long ball and fired under Lions keeper Andrew Hamerlinck. This goal proved to be nothing more than a consolation as the Lions saw the game out to officially confirm their spot in the playoffs!