HOLMDEL, N.J. — New Jersey Copa FC and the Electric City Shock appeared to be heading to penalty kicks in their National Premier Soccer League Northeast Region Keystone Conference semifinal Tuesday night.
But Raphael Araujo had other ideas.
Tied 1-1 after 120 minutes of soccer — including two periods of extra time — and with the only minute of stoppage time waning, Araujo struck for the second time, stuffing a point-blank shot into the upper right corner with only seconds remaining to lift the hosts to a 2-1 victory.
The stunning finish set the table for top-seeded NJCFC, the conference regular-season champion, to host the Keystone championship game Sunday at 7 p.m. It will face the winner of second-seeded Clarkstown SC Eagles and No. 3 West Chester United SC. NJCFC raised its record to 8-1-2, including 5-0-1 in its last six games.
“I was very impressed with our resiliency tonight,” NJCFC head coach and owner Roberto Aguas said. “After having two goals disallowed at key moments, our boys stayed focused and continued to work toward the great ending we saw today. To score the game winner in the extra minute after the double overtime was truly magical.”
Araujo, who put NJCFC in front 1-0 with a 30th-minute strike, was the clear pick as man of the match. Last week’s NPSL player of the week, Araujo netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season and has produced nine goals in his last three matches.
Araujo had six of NJCFC’s 13 shots, putting four on goal, while playing the full 120 minutes up front. He also had a potential goal in the 103rd minute waived off.
Eugene Heerschap and Daniel Vicente, who both entered the game as subs in the second overtime period assisted on the game-winner; Vicente had been on the field for only three minutes before his steal led to the game-winner. Travis Ward picked up an assist on the first NJCFC goal.
“We debated taking Rapha out a few times as he was showing the effects of heavy legs but we are thrilled we did not make that sub,” Aguas said. “Rapha continues to find critical goals at the most opportune times.”
Goalkeeper Matt Perrella stopped six shots to back up a defensive unit that blocked or forced a majority of Electric City’s 20 shot attempts.
Vicente entered in the 118th minute and Heerschap in the 110th. Midway through the only minute of stoppage time, Vicente picked the ball off the Electric City right back’s foot along the left sideline, raced 15 yards down the left wing and sent a ball across the box to Heerschap who deflected it to his right. An awaiting Araujo extended his right foot, flicking a shot into the upper right corner as the crowd of nearly 600 at St. John Vianney High School erupted.
“It’s always great to see the changes we make during a match pay dividends,” Aguas added. “Both Vicente and Heerschap, who came in late in the match, created and assisted in the game-winning goal.”
Earlier in extratime it appeared that Araujo had put NJCFC in front when right back Andrew Santos made a run up the right wing, sidestepped a defender while dishing a pass to Araujo, who unleashed a vicious one-timer top shelf. The 103rd-minute strike was negated by a foul.