Battling weather conditions and a fierce comeback effort from the Nashville Metros, the Milwaukee Rampage held on for a key 3-2 road victory in the first leg of their first-round playoff series Wednesday.
Igor Soso struck a 40-yard bomb into the top left corner for the eventual game-winner a minute after Nashville cut the lead to 2-1. The Metros converted a late free kick to make it 3-2, but the final whistle blew moments later.
The Rampage can now advance to the league quarterfinals and a matchup with A-League Regular Season Champion Richmond with a win or draw Saturday at 3:00 p.m. CT at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex.
Steve Butcher staked the visitors to a 2-0 lead on a rainy night and water-logged field with a pair of goals on each side of halftime. In the 29th minute, he received a feed from David Hayes at the top of the box. Butcher unleased a rocket that deflected off a de-fender and caught Nashville goalkeeper Cole Burgman leaning the other way.
In the 65th minute, Rampage leading scorer Digital Takawira broke into the Metros pen-alty area, but was taken down. As referee Ali Saheli signaled for play to continue, Butcher picked up the loose ball and slotted a shot into the far post from a difficult an-gle.
The Metros finally broke through on Rampage 'keeper Dan Popik in the 82nd minute when Jakob Fenger spun and sent a shot into the back of the net from close range after a Nashville free kick.
But just seconds later, Soso broke through and provided some insurance that the Ram-page would eventually need. As he crossed midfield into Metros territory, he launched a 40-yard rocket leaving Burgman helpless to defend the net.
With Saheli calling for five minutes of stoppage time, the Metros took advantage. A-League Assist Leader Jaymi Bailey finished one himself by converting a free kick at the top of the box to narrow the Rampage lead to 3-2.
Milwaukee will carry the 3-2 advantage into the second leg of the total-goals series Sat-urday. A win or draw by the Rampage will give them a date with Richmond, while a one-goal win by the Metros will force a sudden-death overtime period immediately following the match. If the two 15-minute overtime sessions fail to produce a winner, the game will proceed to a penalty-kick shootout. A Nashville victory by two or more goals will eliminate the Rampage.
MILWAUKEE RAMPAGE 3
NASHVILLE METROS 2
Rampage Steve Butcher (David Hayes) 30
Rampage Steve Butcher (Digital Takawira)61
Nashville Jakob Fenger (James Wall) 82
Rampage Igor Soso 83
Nashville Jaymi Bailey 90
Rampage -Dan Popik; Destin Makumbu, Matt Bobo, Judah Cooks; Steve Bernal, Igor Soso (Craig Charlton 84), David Hayes (Brian Doherty 80), Jason Russell, Philipe Go-doy; Steve Butcher (Dennis Fadeski 89), Digital Takawira (Mike Slivinski 89).
Nashville - Cole Burgman; Chris Morman, Russell Cain (Dominic Schell 63), James Wall, Steve Kraemer, Andraes Maier; Gabe Valencia, Jaymi Bailey, Jeff Dominguez; Jeff Houser (Brandon Wright 46), Jakob Fenger.
Statistics: Shots Saves Fouls Offsides CKs
Rampage 18 8 15 1 6
Nashville 24 8 21 1 4
Rampage - Cooks 13, Hayes 77, Fadeski 90.
Nashville - Morman 20, Wright 72, Morman 73.
Rampage - Russell 75.
Nashville - Morman 73.