December 14th, 2019 - Silver Spring, MD - World Class Premier Elite, playing our final game in Maryland in 2019, have captured the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) Fall 2019 Northeast Conference Championship. The win puts us in the National Semi-Finals as one of the last four teams remaining in the Fall 2019 season.
On a cold and rainy afternoon in Silver Spring, both teams (World Class Premier Elite and Mass United FC) looked to get on the front foot early. After 15 minutes of back and forth play, Mass United started to grow more into the game. In the 34th minute, Mass United's Marco Martinez got behind the defense and slotted away the game's first goal to give Mass United a 1-0 lead.
The boys immediately had a positive reaction and in the 37th minute, we earned a PK for a foul in the box. Forward Kay Banjo stepped up to the spot and calmly scored the equalizer. The final 8 minutes of the half saw World Class Premier Elite heavily on the front foot looking to continue attacking and creating scoring opportunities.
In the 42nd minute, midfielder Alex Kao hit a freekick from just outside the box off the crossbar for the closest we would get to another goal before the halftime whistle. The game was building in intensity, with both teams picking up a yellow card in the closing mintues of the half. However, that is where the events of the match turned south.
At the halftime whistle, one of the Mass United players seemed to get upset about the referee blowing the half dead when he deemed that they (Mass United) were on the break. This was after the two minutes of added time that had been announced plus an additional 3 minutes after the Mass United goalkeeper went down with an injury and the trainer came on. From our vantage point, referee showed the Mass United player a yellow card and then a red card. Whether it was actually was a second yellow for the player or the referee mistakenly showed the player a red card is not clear. After bringing out the red card, a member of the Mass United bench (not a player) ran out onto the field into the crowd of protesting players and, from our point of view, shoved and punched the referee in the face.
With a lot of chaos breaking out on the field, our players made their way over to our bench as we waited for the situation to calm down and to see what was going to happen. In the minutes that passed, the police were called and the referee crew were talking with each other and communication with the teams as much as they could while they sorted out the situation with the authorities and league. The match was ultimately called by the referees and the league made the ultimate decision to call the game and have Mass United forfeit. The decision was left up to the UPSL as to what was to happen with the outcome of the game and they decided a Mass United forfeit was warranted.
While this is not the way that we wanted this important match decided, we are happy that we get to go through, but definitely would have rather the players decide the match on the field. It was shaping up to be a good game and the 2nd half looked like it would provide some exciting soccer for the 100 fans who braved the elements to come out and support. It’s disappointing the players didn’t get to decide the outcome, but we are looking forward to continuing to work hard and keep this season going.
When asked about the events that transpired, Head Coach Phil Nana was frustrated, but happy the team advanced. "Of course we didn’t want to win such an important game or any game rather in that fashion but under no circumstances is behavior like that acceptable. Nonetheless, it was a good game for the team. We started off slow and then started to dominate every aspect of the game. This has been out modus operandi all season. Making to the Semi-Finals is a gauge not just for the players and team but for the club as well because this is uncharted water for us. New heights. Though this is the case, I have no doubt in my mind we are one of, if not the best team in the country this season and we expect nothing less than a UPSL National Championship."
The celebrations ensued on the field but a new challenge awaits as we wait and see what other three teams make the Semi-Finals from the rest of the country. The team will travel down to Miami to compete in the Semi-Finals with the goal of securing a National Championship.