Soul Clinch MISL Playoff Berth With Win Over Silver Knights
CHICAGO — With a 17-6 victory over the Syracuse Silver Knights on Friday night at the Sears Centre Arena, the Chicago Soul clinched an MISL playoff berth in their inaugural season. Carlos Muñoz led the way with his hat trick, giving Chicago the boost it needed to lock in the fourth and final seed.
“This is huge for the Soul organization, huge for myself and Jeff [Kraft} as coaches, and huge for the city of Chicago,” said Soul Head Coach Novi Marojevic. “This is the first time in a long time that an expansion team has gone to the playoffs in the first year. I’m extremely proud.
“I give the guys a lot of credit because it was a difficult game mentally with so much pressure riding on tonight, but they stayed focused and showed a lot of heart. They stuck to the plan and defended well, and when they do that, they are a difficult team to beat.”
Alexander Megson put the Soul ahead in the first quarter as he fired home his own rebound. Bato Radoncic followed up with a header that gave Chicago a 4-0 lead over Syracuse before the first quarter came to a close.
Syracuse’s Slavisa Ubiparipovic put his side on the board in the second quarter, cutting Chicago’s advantage to 4-2. The Soul were able to pull away again when the Silver Knights faced two penalties. Nelson Santana was sent to the penalty box with a blue card for a hand ball, with Ryan Pierce tailing him a minute later with the same offense. Chicago was awarded a penalty kick, which was successfully executed by Carlos Farias. Muñoz then followed with a goal to give the Soul an 8-2 cushion by halftime.
Muñoz opened second-half scoring as he buried his second goal of the night. Farias kept the momentum going when he struck from the 3-point range to make it a 13-2 Chicago lead. Syracuse was able to cut that lead to 13-4 when Neto converted on a penalty kick after Megson received a blue card for pulling.
The dominance continued on the Soul’s end in the fourth quarter as Muñoz went on to complete his hat trick and extend Chicago’s lead to 15-4. Matthew Stewart came up with a goal right behind him, making it 17-4. Syracuse’s Andriy Budnyy managed to halt Chicago’s run when he found the back of the net a minute later, closing the gap to 17-6. The Soul held off the Silver Knights the rest of the way, and went on to secure a victory and a playoff berth that earned them a date with the No. 1 seeded Baltimore Blast.
“In my opinion, they’re the best team in the league,” Marojevic said of the Soul’s first-round opponent. “They play great soccer, and they have a great coach and team. They’re very skillful. But I do feel that we have a chance at beating them. We’ve beat them twice because we were disciplined, focused, and defended well. If we do the same in the playoffs, we have a good chance.”
The first playoff match against the Blast is tentatively set for Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. CT at the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Ill. as the Sears Centre Arena will not be available due to the BIG 10 women’s basketball tournament. For more details and ticket information, visit www.chicagosoulfc.com or call (224) 699-4110.