NEWPORT NEWS - The Villages SC may not have won the league championship, but as the old adage goes, defense does win them. After blanking a normally prolific Asheville City SC in a 1-0 win in the Conference Semifinal, The Villages had their sights set on a Southern Conference Final win over the equally scrappy Little Rock Rangers.
So how does a club that only scores two goals get all the way to the League Two Semifinal? The answer, offered up by Redlands, is one of the nastiest and most disciplined defensive setups in the league. Any joy the Little Rock forwards hoped to experience as they attempted to build through the middle was quickly shut out by the Villages defensive midfielders and back line.
For 90 minutes of action, that was the pattern of play. A failed Rangers attack, a counter by Villages, and a recovering stop by the Rangers, only for them to do it all again.
In the 76th minute, it was a corner for The Villages that was headed home by Matheus Ferreira that gave the Florida club the lead they needed to really dig in. Their plan was to have a recreation of last round's match against Asheville City SC - score early, frustrate opposing attackers and survive to advance.
Heading into the 90th minute, it appeared to be successful. That was, until Little Rock substitute Ethan Blake finally found a crack in the defense and fired a goal home in the seventh minute of stoppage to send the match into extra time.
In the extra periods, the pattern of play was much the same, with some added fatigue for both sides. Both keepers were called on occasionally, but the match always looked like it was headed to penalties. Marvin Sibanda, the first penalty taker for the Rangers, fired wide right of the goal and it was the only window The Villages SC needed. All five penalty takers for the Florida club converted on their chances, giving their defense another chance to win, this time in the League Two Semifinals.
VIL - Matheus Ferreira 76'
LRR - Ethan Blake 90'+7