Soccer In Our Area

Soccer In Our Area: PASL Championships

Club(s) Background

Cincinnati Sirens

The Cincinnati Sirens is a women’s indoor and outdoor soccer club founded in 2018 by John Vogt and Joe Talley. The outdoor league they compete in for their first team is the Women’s Premier League. For their U-23 team, they compete in the Ohio Valley Premier League. In indoor competitions, the Sirens play in the Premier Arena Soccer League, where they are four-time national champions. The Sirens also have an academy where they have provided opportunities for training and competitions to over 200 high school-aged girls since 2021. The first team is managed by Craig Rhodis and captained by Kate Drummond. The first team is made up of several women that have been with the club since its founding along with a mixture of new talent.

Northern Kentucky Nitro

The Northern Kentucky Nitro is a men’s indoor and outdoor soccer club that was founded in 2020 by Sean Eubanks. Some may recognize Sean from his popular YouTube channel ELYYT or from his participation in the Goalden Touch where he, alongside former and current FC Cincinnati players, helped coach Cincinnati’s youth soccer talents for charity. The Nitro play in the OVPL for outdoor and the PASL for indoor soccer. They play all their home matches at the Boone County Athletic Association. The Nitro have finished second in their OVPL conference twice in their short history and are looking to compete for the championship in 2024. In the PASL, they finished in first place for the Midwest Premier Division. A few players have moved on from the Nitro onto professional rosters including Jay Klein of the USL Championship Indy Eleven.

Valhalla FC

Valhalla FC was created with a singular goal in mind, and they want to preserve this goal until they conquer it. Their goal is to advance to the professional stage of The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This goal grows every year, with every win, until they become the top-tier professional team they hope to be. Valhalla FC was officially founded in 2018 by Milford HS graduates from classes 2009-2013. Anders Michelson is one such graduate who has helped develop them both on and off the pitch. Valhalla primarily competes in the OVPL outdoor league. In 2023, they finished the season 10-0 and finished one game shy of making their first appearance in the US Open Cup. For indoor, Valhalla continues through the winter months in the PASL.

The Atmosphere

The reason for the cluster of clubs in this edition of Soccer in our Area is due to the PASL championships. The tournament was held in Fairfield, Ohio at the GameTime Training Center. There were three competitions over a three-day period that included the US Men’s Open Cup, the Women’s National Championship and the Men’s National Championship. GTTC is the home site of the Cincinnati Sirens and, as hosts, they kicked off the event. The Friday session is where all three of the below previews would come from.

On Friday the crowd trickled in for the 6 p.m. opening match. The crowd mostly consisted of family members and members of the Cincinnati Sirens’ academy. The event was a lively affair with full concessions, PASL merchandise and music tracks playing over the action. As the night wore on, the center filled with players and fans alike. Many teams had traveled a long way from the western United States and were keen on soaking up the atmosphere. Several members of PASL and OVPL were available to chat it up as you watched the matches. As the night concluded, several players from the participating teams were present to take in the full set of matches despite the early start on Saturday’s session.

Match(es) Recap

If you have followed indoor soccer before, you may understand how hard it can be to follow all the goals scored. The goals can come hot and fast and substitution patterns make the stat sheet challenging. I hope you will understand that some of these recaps will be generalizations of the match.

Cincinnati Sirens

The Sirens kicked off their PASL National Championship title defense against the Wichita Aero. After 44 minutes of soccer, the Sirens soared to a comfortable 15-1 win.

The match started off in full swing when Macy Reep found the back of the net in the first minute of the match. The Sirens were able to double the lead with a Jackie Esterkamp goal in the third minute.

Wichita, against the run of play, cut the lead with a surprise goal from the defender Erica Boleski.

But the Sirens weren’t dissuaded. After a flurry of saves from the Aero keeper Jenna Miller, Cincinnati was able to add three more goals before the halftime whistle.

Kacey Smekrud started the second half with a quick goal. At this point, the floodgates opened and Cincinnati’s roster was able to fill up the goal sheet.

A total of ten goals were scored in the second half. According to the official stat sheet, Toria Abbott scored two goals and Ellie Mink, Emma Rhodis, and Caitie Byars were able to add a goal apiece. Again, with the number of goals scored by the Sirens, you’d forgive the stat man for any missed records.

Northern Kentucky Nitro

NKY Nitro’s first opponent in the PASL National Championship was Austin Emerald and was scheduled originally for an 8:30 p.m. kickoff. With hailstorms in the region, Austin’s plane was redirected and they eventually arrived for a 11:58 p.m. kickoff.

At the beginning of the match, you could tell the long delay on the match had an effect on the players. But in the ninth minute, Michael Owusu opened up the scoring with a resilient run at the goal. A few minutes later, Nitro’s big, powerful defender Nate Neal was able to double the advantage. Nitro had a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into the halftime.

Almost immediately after the half, Nitro’s Brandon Miranda beat his man to the cross for the easy tap-in goal.

But Austin Emerald didn’t travel all this way to Fairfield for a quick tap-out. A flurry of goals in the 30th and 32nd minute brought the Nitro advantage to just one goal.

Nitro had an answer in the 36th minute when Michael Owusu showed his wonderful skill to navigate the defense and put one through.

Austin’s retort in the 38th minute came from a lapse in defense. But it appeared to be in vain as the match was drawing to a conclusion. However, in the 44th minute, which is the final minute for indoor soccer, Austin’s desperation paid off with a huge goal to send the match into extra time.

Extra time rules in indoor soccer are a bit different from place to place but, in this competition, the first goal wins. That winner came from one of Nitro’s newest members, Ebiel Gamino.

The NKY Nitro advanced to the semi-final in the PASL National Championship and Austin Emerald’s weekend wasn’t over as they dropped down into the PASL US Open Cup.

Valhalla FC

Valhalla’s first opponent in the PASL National Championship was the Houston Bolt. Houston was well represented in this tournament despite the long travel. After a wild match that went to PKs, Valhalla ultimately saw defeat 6-6 (1-2).

The match opened up with both teams trading blows. In the 19th minute of the match, Cam Phillips of Valhalla scored on a rather cheeky tap-in goal. Houston had an answer right before the half to make it a 2-3 deficit for Valhalla.

Valhalla was able to tie the match early in the second half and a 30th-minute goal from Phillips gave them the lead. But, almost instantly, Houston was able to rattle off two consecutive goals to regain the lead at 4-5. Houston then added another to make what appeared to be an insurmountable advantage. 

But true to their core beliefs, Valhalla was resilient in the face of adversity. Fin Sallous cut the lead in half with a goal in the 36th minute. Anders Michelson scored on an all-world attempt from outside of the penalty area to once again bring the match level to 6-6.

The match would need penalties to determine who would advance. PKs in indoor soccer are like the old MLS rules where the shooter has a run-up with the ball to beat the keeper. Something that adds to the drama as one missed touch can foil a PK attempt. Valhalla got off to the right start in PKs with a successful attempt and a save. But fortunes flipped in the next two frames and Valhalla saw their National Championship hopes collapse. Valhalla would be added to the PASL US Open Cup competition for the remainder of the weekend. 

PASL Champions!

Cincinnati Sirens

The Sirens won game two of their group against Kalamazoo by a score of 7-2 and were automatically placed in the quarterfinals. There, they defeated the Louisville Triumph by a score of 8-1. The Siren’s semi-final opponent was a familiar face in the Columbus Eagles. This is the most underrated Columbus-Cincinnati rivalry in all of sports. But, on this weekend, the Sirens were too hot to handle and easily dispatched their rivals 8-0.

The PASL Women’s National Championship was a rematch from last year’s final between Snohomish Sky and the Sirens. After a nervy first half, the Sirens pulled away to a 5-2 victory. The impressive weekend performance ended as the Sirens lifted their fifth national championship.

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