By Michael Lewis
MADISON, N.J. — FC Motown could not have provided any more drama and excitement to finish off a memorable playoff match Saturday night.
And it took a pair of second-half substitutes to provide a perfect ending in what was a hard-fought and nail-biter of a match.
David Nigro headed home a Lucas Terci cross into the net to snap a 1-1 deadlock and lift FC Motown to a 2-1 extratime over FC Mulhouse Portland in the National Premier Soccer League semifinals at Drew University Saturday night.
The win propelled the first-year NPSL side into championship game as it will host FC Miami 2 at Ranger Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Nelson Becerra started the winning sequence with a through ball to Terci on the right flank. Terci crossed the ball into the middle to Nigro, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Scott Dalrymple, whose heroic performance kept the visitors in the game.
Only 20 seconds after Chris Katona headed a point-blank header wide left, FC Motown finally broke the ice. An interception of a Portland clearance allowed Dilly Duka to power a 20-yard shot past Dalrymple for a 1-0 lead.
Portland, however, would not crawl up and die as halftime-substitute Nick Evans equalized with a shot from a difficult angle past keeper Abdoukarim Danso on the left side for a 1-1 deadlock in the 63rd minute.
The opening 45 minutes were virtually all FC Motown, which outshot the visitors, 8-3.
The recurring theme of the half was FCM Portland clearing the ball out of its penalty area and FC Motown intercepting it and producing a close encounter.
The hosts certainly made Dalrymple work and then some as he made four saves in the opening 18 minutes. Deploying a long-ball strategy in the early going, the hosts tried to catch Portland with a quick strike, but Dalrymple was positioned well on every important shot.
He stopped Chris Katona in the second minute, denied Dilly Duka from the top right side of the box in the seventh minute and thwarted Katona on a breakaway in the 10th minute before gathering in a one-bouncer off a Julius James header in the 18th minute.
Other FC Motown attempts were blocked by a well-positioned defense and an offside call on Katona after he placed the ball into the net in the ninth minute.
FCM Portland tried to make the most of its opportunities when it possessed the ball. Its best chance came in the 25th minute when Reed McKenna forced keeper Danso to make his lone save of the half.