In first-place showdown, Wichita Wings take overtime thriller from Cleveland Crunch
TAMPA, Fla. -- The battle for first place in Major Arena Soccer League 2 did not disappoint.
Benji Molina scored just over two minutes into overtime to lift the Wichita Wings to a 4-3 triumph over the Cleveland Crunch Saturday night at a raucous Hartman Arena.
The two teams came into the showdown with just one loss each. Because of Covid-19 restrictions this season, teams are not able to play the same number of games, so standings are based on overall winning percentage, meaning that for the time being, the Crunch will say in first place despite now having two losses.
Cleveland fell to 7-2, but has a winning percentage of .889, while Wichita improved to 5-1 for an .833 mark. Wichiita has five games remaining, including a home doubleheader next weekend against Amarillo next weekend. The Crunch have one game remaining, which is Sunday, June 6, in Omaha.
That is a key game for the Kings, who need to win their remaining two games to secure a final playhoff spot for the league's "Championship Weekend" July 17 and 18 in Wichita. The Wings, Crunch and Bombers have all qualified for the post-season, with Omaha and the Chicago Mustangs still alive for the final playoff spot.
Cleveland got off to a quick start Saturday, following a scoreless first quarter. Mc"Cain Spragling and Gsbriel Pewu put the Crunch up 2-0 in the second before Eduardo "Benji" Molina scored with 1:53 to go before intermission to cut the lead to 2-1. Franck Tayou picked up the assist, one of two on the night, and both were well earned on strong plays by the four-time Major Arena Soccer Leauge Most Valuable Player who has signed on loan from the Ontario Fury for the remainder of the M2 season.
The Wings took a 3-2 lead in the second half as Kieran Laking converted a Tayou feed to tie the game before David Lucio gave the Wings their first lead of the night with just 53 seconds to play in the third. Cleveland's Kurt Raney tied it with just under three minutes to play in regulation to force overtime.
In the extra session, Molina had a spectacular scissors-kick "Walla Scora" after a shot from Lucio missed ending the game by inches. Molina's marker came 2:10 into overtime.
Although low scoring, the game was tense and entertaining, with the Crunch peppering Wichita goalie Steven Hammersky with 28 shots in the final two quarters alone. Cleveland outshot the Wings in the game 41-23.
Cleveland's game in Omaha today will start at 3 p.m. Central Standard Time at Off the Wall soccer in Omaha. Visit the Kings website or social media platforms for ticket and streaming information.