The Milwaukee Rampage "earned" the right to play for the A-League title by defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 in overtime Saturday night. Despite going down a goal just before the half, the Central Division champs changed their formation and netted 2 in the second half for the victory.
The R's defense remains solid. Aldrich, Bobo, and Makumbu allowed few scoring opportunities - as the Whitecaps could not manage a real shot on goal and only a scant 3 corners. Bilyk and Rivillo possessed and distributed the ball in the midfield, with energy that Vancouver was not able to match and Bobo's shaved head continues to be deadly accurate on corner kicks.
Both teams begin play with tight marking midfield play. The first opportunity comes in the 8th minute, when Vancouver's Jeff Clarke breaks free down the right side and sends a cross into the box that David Morris heads wide-right. Three minutes later, the Rampage defense survives a disorganized scrum at the top of the goal box, cleared out by Miguel Saavedra.
The Whitecaps continue to keep up the early pressure with a series of searching balls into the penalty box, concluding with a fine chance in the 15th minute. Geordie Lyall plays a right cross from 30 yards out that Alfredo Valente heads to Steve Kindell, who narrowly misses his header at the right post.
In the 20th minute, Milwaukee uses a nice midfield bulid-up to free Angel Rivillo for a 30-yard blast. Goalkeeper, Jim Larkin makes the save with a fully-extended dive to his right. A couple of touches into the ensuing corner, Larkin saves a low, straight shot from the top of the box by Rampage defender, Destin Makumbu.
More pressure by Vancouver in the 24th minute causes slight confusion of the Milwaukee defense. A Whitecap free kick from 30 yards out, mishandled by Goalkeeper Dan Popik, allows David Morris the chance to "bicycle" the rebound - a 10-yard shot from the left that goes over the crossbar.
Over the next 10 minutes, the Rampage's John Wolyniec pushes through the middle for a mini-breakaway (shot over the crossbar) and Saavedra bends a left-footed free kick into the side of the net from 25 yards out.
The Whitecaps score the first goal of the match in the 41st minute. Valente fires a shot from the left side, just outside the 18. Popik punches it out to the right, near Niall Thompson, who turns quickly and fires a right-footed bullet back to the left. Popik has no chance, as the ball finds the upper left corner.
Coach Sucevic immediately changes the R's formation to a 3-5-2, bringing Jeremy Aldrich out of the back to help Wolyniec up front. Makumbu receives a needless yellow card in the 43rd minute for a sideline altercation with Valente, as the first 45 minutes goes into the books.
The Rampage's 3-5-2 formation creates some chances early in the second half, with Aldrich and Steve Bernal taking shots that Larkin has to clear quickly.
Ball-possession and a nice midfield build-up in the 55th minute result in a corner for the R's. Bernal bends the kick from the left corner that finds defender Matt Bobo's head, for the equalizer.
Aldrich is forced to leave the game in the 68th minute with a knee injury and replaced by Bobby Brennan. The Rampage continue to control the play with energy, yet cannot generate a shot until the 78th minute, when Wolyniec is fouled 30 yards to the left. Thompson then heads Bernal's free kick over the right end line. Wolyniec breaks away down the right side in the 81st minute and strikes a low ball to Larkin's left - saved.
Matt Benke's dangerous drop to his GK in the 84th minute, forces Popik to quickly clear the ball over the left touchline. Then, a patient, multi-touch build-up by the R's ends with Bernal's 20-yard left cross to Wolyniec - who heads it just over the crossbar.
The referee adds 2 minutes of stoppage time. The Rampage defense is caught on its heels - as a potential break-away by Vancouver's Jason Jordan is halted when he is called offside, in the 90th minute.
In the final minute (92), Wolyniec's free kick from the top of the penalty area is blocked by the Whitecap's wall and regulation time comes to an end.
Cautious, back-and-forth play until the 99th minute - when R's substitute midfielder Craig Capano holds a ball in the corner, then plays it off a Vancouver defender for a corner kick. Bobo manages to out-leap his mark to bury Rivillo's corner kick - setting off a celebration that will carry Milwaukee into the A-League final.
Vancouver, Thompson (Kindel), 41'
Milwaukee, Bobo (Aldrich), 56'
Milwaukee, Bobo (Rivillo), 101'
Vancouver - Jim Larkin, Geordie Lyall, Chris Franks, Nick Dasovic, Jeff
Clarke, Paul Dailly (Niall Thompson, 31'), Steve Kindel, Alfredo Valente,
Nico Craveiro, Dave Morris (Tiarnan King, 101'), Jason Jordan.
Milwaukee - Dan Popik, Matt Bobo, Jeremy Aldrich (Bobby Brennan, 68'),
Destin Makumbu, Steve Bernal (Craig Capano, 91'), Jeff Bilyk (Dennis
Fadeski, 95'), Jason Russell, Angel Rivillo, Miguel Saavedra (Matt Behncke,
50'), David Lara, John Wolyniec
Shots - Vancouver 10, Milwaukee 13
Saves - Vancouver 3 (Larkin 3), Milwaukee 0 (Popik 0)
Corner kicks - Vancouver 3, Milwaukee 8
Fouls - Vancouver 15, Milwaukee 20
Yellow cards - Milwaukee 3 (Makumbu, 43'; Behncke, 60'; Brennan, 90')
Offside - Vancouver 1, Milwaukee 1
A - 3,223