YARMOUTH, ME - After a 45 minute lightning delay and two 15-minute overtime periods, the Seacoast United Phantoms suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to GPS Portland Phoenix on Tuesday night.
The match was the 5th time the two teams have met this season, this one had everything to play for as the winner would advance to the Eastern Conference Final Four taking place July 24-26th. The Northeast Divisional playoff pitted the #1 vs #2 seeds against each other in a format last used four years ago in 2011. That year, the 1v2 playoff also included the Phantoms and Phoenix.
The two teams traded chances in the opening 30 minutes, with both goalkeepers DiMaggio and Williams being called upon to keep the opponent off the scoreboard. GPS were first to break through however, as they capitalized on an errant pass out of the back when Andrew Wheeler tucked the ball top corner for the 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.
The Phantoms used the halftime break to regroup, and came out on fire. In the opening 15 minutes, the visitors had 3 quality opportunities at goal. Seacoast United worked to break down the Phoenix back four, and equalized in the 60th minute when Anthony Grant slotted a ball to striker AJ Dubois breaking toward the right side of the GPS goal. Dubois sent a perfect pass across the goal mouth to midfielder Barry McCabe for the 1-touch finish.
The weather would play a huge factor in this game. As the Phantoms continued to pressure, thunderstorms rolled in, complete with heavy rain. Both teams cleared the field with 19 minutes left to play as lightning was spotted nearby, resulting in a 45 minute delay.
Play resumed at 9:20pm, and the Phantoms picked up where they left off with consistent high pressure, creating multiple chances on offense. The best look at goal came with just 4 minutes remaining as Sofiane Tergou’s shot hit low off the far post. With the score even at 1-1, the PDL’s playoff format called for two complete 15 minute overtime periods, followed by penalty kicks if necessary.
Seacoast United held the edge on possession for the majority of the first overtime period, but it was GPS who would once again take the lead. With 2 minutes to go in the first OT, a bouncing ball just outside the box was chased down by James Smith and flicked over a retreating Dom DiMaggio, sneaking in just under the crossbar.
The teams continued to battle throughout the remaining 15 minutes, with several dramatic moments including Grant’s blast hitting the post with 3 minutes left on the clock.
The Seacoast United Phantoms finish the 2015 season 2nd in the Northeast Division with an overall record (including playoff) of 9-4-2.
Interviewed after the game, head coach Iain Scott offered his feedback on this season.
“We are pleased [with the season] overall. The whole purpose with the PDL program is to showcase players to higher level leagues. We feel our program has allowed for several players to have those opportunities over the past few seasons.”
The Seacoast United program has several examples of success stories referred to in Scott’s comments. Striker Anthony Grant has been crowned the 2015 PDL Golden Boot and Scoring Champion earlier on Tuesday afternoon, leading the league with 12 goals and 28 points during the regular season. Grant also finished 2nd in scoring during the 2014 season and was an All-League selection as well as a 2014 PDL MVP Finalist. 2015 league selections are due to be announced next week.
Midfielder Abel Perez recently gained a professional contract in Spain with a Division 2 club based on his performance with the Phantoms during the past two seasons. Perez is currently in Europe and was not available for the playoff game on Tuesday evening.
Before the start of the season, defender and 2014 captain Ben Brewster signed a professional contract with Tulsa Roughnecks of USL-PRO.
“Overall, every player who comes to Seacoast United departs after the season gaining valuable experience both on and off the field,” added Scott.
About Seacoast United Phantoms
The Seacoast United Phantoms compete in the Premier Development League (PDL), with a roster consisting of collegiate, post-collegiate, and international players looking to further their development during the summer months. For more on the Seacoast United Phantoms teams, please visit www.seacoastunited.com/phantoms.