NPSL Midwest Regional Finals Review

How did we get here?

The Gateway Conference went straight to its Championship match, and Des Moines United won 2-1 to advance.

The North Conference tournament saw Med City FC upset both the #2 seeded Dakota Fusion and the National #1 seeded Duluth on the road to earn their spot.

The Great Lakes Conference tournament saw Cleveland upset Michigan Rangers before they fell to Steel City FC.

The Heartland tournament saw the #1 seeded Tulsa Athletic advance.

Feel free to look back at those in detail, here.

The host site was chosen on a vote by the four competing teams, and the #4 seed (Steel City in Pittsburgh) lost out to the more centrally located #11 seed (Des Moines United in Indianola, IA).


#5 Steel City FC (Great Lakes) 0-0 (AET – 7-6 on PKs) #27 Med City FC (North)

Steel City had a golden opportunity to go ahead with only 5 mins on the clock, but Tate Mohney missed a chance unmarked in the six yard box from a counter attack. The first half finished goal less.

Med City’s biggest chance came in the seventy-fifth minute, when Henry Tolbert took the ball off the toes of the Steel City keeper Garret Watson, but he failed to tap home into the open net. Iker Gonzalez kept Med City in it, with a point blank save. Two corners didn’t result in a goal. A last minute goalmouth scramble for Steel City also failed to break the deadlock.

Steel City had another chance from close range as the first half of extra time. Tolbert had a good chance for Med City but his shot at the near post was under-hit.

In the penalty shootout, Steel City’s Nolan Hutter missed, wide off the right hand post. Watson stopped the first Med City shot, from Toby Millward. Steel City’s Bryan Akongo struck the decisive blow, as Matias Milla hit his own attempt high off the crossbar.

#8 Des Moines United (Gateway) 3-4 #12 Tulsa Athletic (Heartland)

In this battle of top-placed teams, Sora Noda had a chance for Des Moines in the eleventh minute, but from the save, the ball went right up the other end and Luis Flores scored from a free kick, direct from the top line of the penalty area. It was 2-0 in the thirty-ninth minute. United were temporarily down to ten men as a solo counter knifed down the right side vacated by the injured defender and it was blasted across the goalie into the side netting by Aboubakr Sidiki Moubarak Diallo.

The second half opened with United on the front foot but the early pressure did not result in any goals. Tulsa scored their third goal as Riolan Mello finished off an interception in the penalty area in the fifty-fourth minute. Only three minutes later, Aaron Ugbah finished with power, driving in from the left on the edge of the penalty area.  In the seventieth minute, United spoiled the clean sheet with a neat interchange of passes between the gridiron hashes before Lucas Malaguez swept home. Five minutes later, it was 4-2 through Lincoln Borges and only one minute after that it was 4-3, after Quentin Arnoud finished from a left wing corner. In the eighty-fifth minute, Nora’s snap shot at the near post was saved for a corner. A free kick from twenty five yards out by United went high.

Final – #5 Steel City FC 1-2 (AET) #12 Tulsa Athletic

Regardless of who won this game, both Steel City and Tulsa Athletic received priority in the league’s allocation of spots for the US Open Cup, along with the six other regional finalists. Ironically, after voting to hold the matches centrally in Iowa, it is the travelers from furthest East and the furthest South who played both days. Abou Diallo was a threat all night for Tulsa. Tate Mohney provided the most threat for Steel City.

Diallo put Tulsa ahead against the run of play in the twenty-fifth minute from a long ball over the top from Flores. He also had snapshots in the thirty-second and forty-second minutes blocked by last ditch defending.

The second half of regulation began with the same pattern of play. In the fiftieth minute, an Athletic free kick was whipped in, but the keeper gathered it. In the fifty-third minute, Tulsa also had a corner with no end result. The last third was end to end, with two Steel City corners back to back and a long shot from Tulsa. A Steel City attack in the seventieth was ended by a perfectly timed slide tackle, and up the other end it was Garret Watson stopping an Athletic free kick at point blank range. Both goalkeepers had outstanding stops in the eighty-second minute and then in the eighty-third minute, Steel City scrambled home the equalizer.

In the ninety-eighth minute, a Tulsa free kick was scrambled in, but the referee called offside. Ten minutes later, the game was finally settled when Aaron Ugbah dribbled across the field and took a shot from fully twenty yards out.

In a chaotic end to an otherwise calmly conducted game, Steel City ended the game officially down to eight men as Justin Copay, Rodrigo Albayeros and Brice Ghandi were all given straight red cards for dissent in the one-hundred-and-twentieth minute. 

Coming Up

For us, nothing else for this season. Tulsa Athletic moves on to play in the National Semifinals and we don’t cover the Heartland, so we wish them well but won’t be covering the National Semis.