The first half was an eventful one to say the very least. California opened the scoring through Omar Nuno before Christian Thierjung converted from the penalty spot to double his team’s lead. Chicago pulled one back through Wojciech Wójcik, but a header from Bryan de la Fuente restored the Strikers’ two-goal advantage.
Oddly enough, that would be all of the scoring on the night, as the second half saw a few chances, but no goals.
It was a climactic conclusion to the season for both, even if one side was much happier than the other when it was all said and done.
Story of the match
The first chance fell to the away side. A long ball in behind played Christian Thierjung into space, and he dribbled past a lunging challenge before setting up Omar Nuno. Just as he was about to shoot, though, he was tackled by Rodolfo Sulia, who managed to deal with the danger.
Nuno wouldn’t be denied for much longer, though. Bryan Medina was able to create space out wide, which allowed him to whip in a low cross into the area. He picked out the aforementioned Nuno, and he buried the ball into the back of the net.
He nearly grabbed a brace moments later. His first-time shot from close range was saved by Michael Novotny, and then the goalkeeper turned him away a second time when the rebound fell to the forward.
Those efforts would somewhat be for naught as the Strikers doubled their advantage soon after. Thierjung was taken out by David Abidor in the box, and even though it didn’t look like much, the referee chose to point to the spot anyway. Thierjung stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, and he converted it despite the goalkeeper going the right way.
The game refused to slow down, and Chicago pulled one back at the midway point of the first half. Coming courtesy of a quick counter, Drew Conner slipped Wojciech Wójcik through on goal, and he finished off the move with a well-placed shot that found the back of the net.
They almost scored a second in a matter of moments. A defensive turnover led to the ball falling to Matteo Kidd, and he then laid it off to a streaking Ian Cerro. He couldn’t do what Wójcik did minutes earlier, though, as his shot hit the wrong side of the side netting.
There would be one more goal before the break, and it would be scored by California. Nuno turned from scorer to provider, dinking in a lovely cross towards Bryan de la Fuente, who headed home from a few yards out to put his side up by two.
Nuno was involved once again during the early stages of the second half when he cut inside at the top of the penalty box and went for goal. His effort deflected off a defender, and then it bounced off of the far post before the ball was eventually cleared away.
The chances kept coming, and the next one fell to the House. A loose ball in the area eventually made its way to Wójcik, and he made clean contact on an attempted strike, but Jean Antoine stepped up to make a big save.
That proved to be the final real highlight of the contest as the Strikers held on to secure the win and all three points.
It’s kind of hard to explain, but California looks like a team that would be the antagonists of a soccer Hollywood film. The teal kits with white shorts and socks combo makes them look like they think they are better than you, and almost every player was wearing some sort of long-sleeve thermal undershirt. Something just didn’t seem right. The fact that they are also quite good adds to the theory.
California is probably the best team I’ve seen play the House this season. Their passing was crisp, and their movement created space out wide and in the middle on a number of occasions. With Detroit City FC out of the picture next season, the Strikers could make a run at the title.
Man of the match - Omar Nuno
The likely NISA Golden Boot winner was able to showcase just how good he is on the night, leading his side to an impressive road victory.
A presence throughout the contest, Omar Nuno created a few chances and was on the end of many others. He scored the opener, converting a cross whipped towards him with confidence and composure. He then assisted the third, chipping the ball to Bryan de la Fuente for an easy header.
All in all, it was another remarkable day at the office for Nuno, who might just be a bit too good for this level. Whether or not he moves on in the offseason remains to be seen, but California will certainly be thankful for all he did this campaign.