New Jersey Defeats Chicago in Classic Battle, 9-8
Phillips was stellar in the second half for New Jersey (Photo by Rich Graessle)
Newark, N.J. (Sunday, March 15, 2009) – Heading into a Sunday night showdown between the New Jersey Ironmen (7-8) and the Chicago Storm (7-10), no one needed to tell either of these teams that a loss could be detrimental to their season. Following 60 minutes of hard-fought soccer, New Jersey was able to keep their XSL championship hopes alive after a goal by newly reacquired defender Tim O’Neill proved to be the game-winner with 4:08 left on the clock.
The Ironmen alumni played well in the first half against their former club, sending the host Storm into the locker rooms at halftime with a 6-3 edge. Former New Jersey captain Lazo Alavanja netted the first goal of the evening, and following a Chris Brisson score, Chicago led this contest after 15 minutes of play, 4-0. Ironmen midfielder Chile Farias answered for his team with 7:14 remaining in the second frame when he knocked in a Goran Vasic feed for three points. Dizzy Antoniuk, current Storm forward and top point-getter for New Jersey last season, then retaliated with a two-pointer at 9:15 to give Chicago a 6-3 advantage. Behind some solid saves by former Ironmen and current Storm backstopper Bayard Elfvin, Chicago held that lead into intermission.
Whatever Ironmen Head Coach Omid Namazi had to say during halftime undoubtedly woke up his team. At 8:28 of the third quarter, New Jersey defender Evan McNeley rebounded a Farias shot and pounded the ball home to close the gap to 6-5. Forward Adauto Neto then gained the Ironmen their first advantage of the match-up, 7-6, when he was able to send home a ball at 11:18. After some stellar play between the pipes by New Jersey netminder Brett Phillips led to a clean slate in the third period, the 7-6 tally stood as the two sides headed into the fourth stanza.
Brisson wasted little time into the final quarter of regulation when he recorded his second goal of the night at 1:07, giving the edge back to the Storm, 8-7. As the minutes began to pass on the quarter and possibly the season for the Ironmen, the intensity in their play began to reflect the seriousness of the situation. Unable to catch a bounce, an incredible bicycle kick by Neto and an athletic header by defender Rey Martinez hit the posts down the stretch. Phillips remained dialed in to make some heart pounding saves for New Jersey, and the Ironmen displayed resiliency to remain on the attack. Their perseverance finally paid off with a little over four minutes remaining. Phillips threw a ball down the left wing to Farias, who then sent the ball over to the right flank. O’Neill was awaiting the feed, and he fought his way to the ball to knock it just past Elfvin and give New Jersey back the lead, 9-8, with 4:08 on the clock. Chicago battled it out every last second of the game and came close on a few chances, but the Ironmen would withstand the flurry of the Storm.
With the win, New Jersey remains two games back of the league leading Milwaukee Wave (9-6), who defeated the Detroit Ignition (8-7) earlier today in a first place showdown. The Ironmen will get the opportunity to gain some ground on Milwaukee in front of their home crowd at the Rock next Sunday, March 22nd, when they host the Wave at 1:00 p.m. New Jersey will be wearing special green jerseys in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, and all jerseys will be branded with the Grassroot Soccer (GRS) logo. All jerseys will be sold through a silent auction during the game, with GRS receiving the proceeds. GRS founder and Survivor-Africa winner Ethan Zohn will be at the game while former Cosmos captain Werner Roth will be the Ironmen honorary captain during the opening kick ceremonies.
New Jersey first returns to Prudential Center this Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. for a school day exhibition game in front of students from the Newark School System. All fans are welcome to attend the game, and tickets remain on sale now. Tickets for the Ironmen start at $10 and can be purchased today by calling 1-800-IRONMEN.