Inland Empire Republic’s season ends with a 4-2 loss to California Rush in the UPSL Division 1 promotion playoff semifinals.
For this semifinal matchup of the D1 promotion race, here is how both of these teams got to this position. For IER, they have been consistent during the season in the SoCal east division. From 10 games, they lost only once to 1st place Soul 2 Sole, who went undefeated. They managed to get 9 wins and 0 draws, scoring 34 and allowing 13 goals for a GD of +21. They ended up in 2nd place in the SoCal east and went on to play Verdugos in the Promotion quarterfinals. They would go on the blank Verdugos 2-0 to make their winning streak to 5. Meanwhile, for the visitors California Rush, they ended up in 3rd of the SoCal North with a record of 7 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses from 11 games. They also scored 34 goals and allowed 19 for a GD of +15. They reached the quarterfinals and also won 2-0 against Storm United to reach the semifinals.
On a beautiful Saturday evening at Ralph Lewis Sports Complex in Fontana, CA, a crowd of around 87 spectators came to see who would advance to the finals. Within the first 2 minutes, IER gets a quick goal from an interception of a California Rush pass in the midfield. The IER player then passes it to his forward, beats the defensive line on the right, and slots it into the left. For the winning team, they played the long ball and looked for the counterattack. They also invited the attack as they didn’t press California Rush often. One advantage IER did have was they were physically bigger, as Rush had no players taller than any IER member. That worked in the opposing team’s favor in the 15′ as Rush got an equalizing goal. They got a corner kick on the right side and played it short; the player pivots and passes the ball in the box, where his teammate backheels it into the net. Then, 3 minutes later, Rush gets a penalty. The player shoots left, and the keeper goes right. Now it’s 2-1 in favor of Rush.
Since then, the California Rush has been in control. They had precession crosses, passes that cut through defensive lines, and high intensity in making the attack. Rush would build their play from the back, where the defenders distribute the ball from right to left and vice versa. They also had a good first touch and made quick runs. Defensively, Rush would put 4- 5 guys to press IER when they are in the final third. The whole team would go back to defend if IER tries to break the defensive line. Since IER didn’t press the visitors till they got into IER territory, Rush had most of the possession in the first half, which saw IER defend most of the time. The half would end 2-1
The second half starts, similar to what happened in the first half, but IER has more possession. They would get to Rush’s final third but couldn’t get into position to get a shot. Then, in the 56′ IER gets their second goal off a turnover in the midfield, and the IER winger hustles with the ball down the left side and near the boundary line, makes a low diagonal pass in the box where his teammate slots it in. The game is tied again. However, just 5 minutes later, Rush would get a third goal off a triangle pass on the right edge of the box and a lob pass in the box for a forward who flicks the ball in midair and lands inside the net. Then, 3 minutes after their 3rd goal, Rush gets a 4th one. They got a corner on the right side, and the cross makes the ball bounce over everyone, and the Rush player on the right post smashes it home. 4-2 in favor of Rush.
Cali is still penetrating the wings and looking for more goals, exploiting that IER gave up a lot of space. The last 20 minutes saw Rush playing the counter as IER tried to get one back but couldn’t get something going. The final whistle blows and the final score ends 4-2 to California Rush.
For a quiet match that didn’t see much verbal communication from both sides and a relatively clean game, IER’s season ends as their second loss finishes their spring 2021 campaign. The IE club technically was a new team in the league when COVID-19 plagued the country in 2020. They got their first-ever win in the 2020 spring season, but as the virus got worse, the UPSL would not record the victory as California didn’t lift restrictions for play till this spring. Nonetheless, they were among the top teams in their division and the top IE teams (in Division 1) this season. If they continue their success, IER will aim for the Premier division next time. They can only reflect on this season with optimism, knowing that Soul 2 Sole, who got the automatic promotion, is not their next season, and IER could be the next-best team.
For California Rush, the promotion race isn’t over. A talented team that looked like the favorites despite allowing a goal in less than 180 seconds didn’t have to worry about this game. Their next match would be against OC Spartans Futbol Academy, who defeated Culver City MAFO 4-2. The final winner will get the promotion to the Premier Division the following season, assuming they meet the off-field requirements set by the UPSL.