The Crusaders advance to the NAIA Championship final site in Delray Beach, Fla., with the win while Cumberland’s season ends with a 1-0 home loss in the NAIA Opening Round for the second time in three seasons.
Each team battled wind that gusted from 15-25 miles-per-hour the entire match. The Crusaders (16-3-1) controlled the run of play for much of the first half while going with the win, attacking the net but finding little room for shots or chances against CU’s Bennet Strutz.
The Phoenix finally gained control of the ball over the final 15 minutes, getting seven shots in the first 45 minutes but only one of a quality, a header by Tyler Watson off a corner kick late in the period.
Cumberland (15-3-2) was the aggressor most of the second half, again thanks to the wind, though Madonna’s speed and strength in the midfield did not allow for many runs at the net. Joe Smith made a nice save on CU’s Bakary Bagayogo in the first five minutes of the period and the Phoenix continued to press forward, with headers by Watson and Austin Morenzoni just missing.
Strutz also kept the Crusaders off the board with a diving stop near the top of the box against Madonna’s Marlon Freitas and the teams crept closer to extra time.
Freitas gained control of the ball down the left side and passed through two Cumberland defenders to a streaking Asigo. His shot low and to the far post was just out of the reach of Strutz with just 2:13 remaining, sending the Crusaders bench into a frenzy.
Cumberland was unable to find a scoring chance in the final seconds and the visitors celebrated when the final buzzer sounded.
Strutz finished with three saves against nine shots while Smith posted four saves against 15 shots by Cumberland.