We have our first Final at the USL eCup: FIFA20 Edition, with Hartford Athletic’s Tyreke Johnson and Scotland set to square off with Rio Grande Valley FC’s Kembo Kibato on Saturday night after both picked up impressive wins in Friday’s Semifinals.
1. Scotland might have been the No. 24 seed in the pre-tournament seeding for the USL eCup: FIFA20 Edition, but Hartford Athletic’s Tyreke Johnson continued to show it’s not the hand you’re dealt, it’s how you play it that counts to land in the Final of the opening week’s Play-In Bracket. A 3-2 victory on Friday evening against OKC Energy FC’s Frankie Lopez playing as Portugal continued Johnson’s brilliant run as he reeled off three consecutive goals after going behind early. A late goal by Lopez made things interesting, but Johnson was comfortable enough to carry the Tartan Army through.
2. The biggest key to Hartford’s victory? Cutting off the supply to Portugal’s potent attack. Lopez might have struck twice with Cristiano Ronaldo early and late, but those were the only two shots on goal Energy FC mustered as Johnson closed down space and cut out passes expertly throughout the game to limit the looks on goal Lopez earned. That ability in a game takes experience and timing. Johnson clearly possesses plenty of both.
3. It would be easy after seeing Neymar Jr. score all six goals for Brazil under the control Rio Grande Valley FC’s Kembo Kibato that having one of the world’s best players available to you made the difference. That would take away from Kibato’s great week, where it hasn’t mattered who’s been knocking in the goals, he’s just been extremely good. In the end, his 6-1 win against Austin Bold FC’s Valeri Saramutin playing as Italy was about as one-sided as the real-life 1970 FIFA World Cup Final between the two countries.
- So, what a final we get for Saturday night. I was almost five when Scotland and Brazil played at the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain, and that game produced some fabulous goals from two teams that had some brilliant representation. Hopefully we get some spectacular finishes like this from Hartford’s Tyreke Johnson and Rio Grande Valley’s Kembo Kibato.
- Normally, fans will get the chance to know players at official events during preseason and the regular season, but the interactive nature of Twitch has meant Hartford newcomer Tyreke Johnson seems to be getting a sizeable personal following from Athletic fans thanks to his online gaming prowess.
- For the English winger, that connection is already pretty meaningful. “It means everything,” Johnson said in a postgame chat on the Athletic’s Twitch stream. “It shows how great the fans are. We haven’t even played and they’re coming to see anything they can see. It’s great to see.”
- To offer some words of consolation to Austin Bold FC’s Valeri Saramutin, we turn to Dire Straits. “Sometimes you're the windshield, Sometimes you're the bug.” Going from a 6-0 romp in the Quarterfinals to a 6-1 defeat in the Semifinals is quite the change in fortunes. Shake it off, man, third-place game awaits.
Hartford Athletic (Scotland) 3, OKC Energy FC (Portugal) 2
Rio Grande Valley FC (Brazil) 6, Austin Bold FC (Italy) 1