TUKWILA, Wash. – Top-seeded K-W United FC, based out of Ontario, Canada, scored three first-half goals and earned a 4-3 victory against New York Red Bulls U23 during Sunday’s title match of the 2015 PDL Championship presented by Nike, hosted at Starfire Stadium.
JEFF HALSTEAD: PDL Finals Match Gallery
Ben Polk, Joel Perez and first-half sub Jarek Whiteman-Asiamah provided the first-half scoring and Juuso Pasanen added a second-half tally as K-W United captured its first PDL crown. K-W goalkeeper Nate Ingham, who earned a shutout in the semifinals and made a couple key saves – including a second-half penalty kick attempt – was named the tournament’s MVP as his club fought off NYRB U23 down the stretch.
“You rarely see a final like this,” K-W United FC head coach Chris Pozniak said. “We had a very good first half and then died off in the second half when we absorbed way too much pressure. Credit to New York for their great spirit coming back, and they just kept coming.”
“This is a win for my team, not so much myself,” Ingham said. “I was blessed with the MVP and I think a lot of other guys deserve it. Letting in three goals and still winning a championship game, you have to give all the credit to your teammates. It has nothing to do with me. I just came up when they needed me.”
For a second consecutive season, the PDL title goes to a Great Lakes Division squad. The Michigan Bucks won the 2014 PDL Championship and were eliminated from this year’s tournament by K-W United, which earned a 3-1 win on July 25 to win the Central Conference Championship.
K-W United posted an 11-2-1 regular-season record, followed by five postseason victories, for a combined 16-2-1 mark. Between the regular season and postseason, K-W capped off the off the year with a 15-game unbeaten run (14-0-1).
Polk, K-W United’s leading goal scorer during the PDL regular season, scored a redirect goal off of a set piece chance in the sixth minute and never looked back. K-W defender Liam Callahan drew a free kick just outside of the left corner of the box. Callahan placed the subsequent free kick into the middle of the box where Polk redirected into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Despite his goal scoring efforts, Polk was subbed out in the 13th minute after picking up an ankle injury during the goal sequence, and Whiteman-Asiamah was brought in.
The Red Bulls U23 nearly had a response when Brian White was in good position with a header toward the upper right corner of the frame. Ingham made a full-stretch save to keep the match scoreless and instead allow a corner kick.
K-W added to its lead in the 33rd minute on a swift buildup from outside back Ridge Robinson, who stepped up and crossed from the right side to Perez. Perez calmly placed the ball into the left of the frame for a 2-0 cushion.
In first-half stoppage time, K-W United maintained its momentum when Whiteman-Asiamah found himself one-on-one against NYRB U23’s Joe Ohaus and snuck his shot in between the goalkeeper’s legs to take a 3-0 lead into halftime.
Following the break in the 52nd minute, NYRB U23 left back and team captain Scott Thomsen got one back for his side. With a dangerous free kick chance above the box, Thomsen drove the ball just inside the left post to cut K-W United’s lead to 3-1.
K-W United’s bench had a response 10 minutes later in the 62nd. Starting with Sergio Camargo’s poise in the middle, the star forward set up Julian Buscher, who crossed to Pasanen as he redirected into the net to take a 4-1 lead.
The back-and-forth half continued when Thomsen dished to Rhys Williams who ran toward the right of the six-yard box, and he slotted inside the right post to cut K-W United’s lead to 4-2.
Thomsen had an opportunity to cut K-W’s lead to one goal when he took a penalty kick in the 79th minute. He directed his left-footed shot toward the right of the frame and Ingham anticipated correctly to that side with a clutch diving save.
“I felt like I needed to bail out my team there, and when he stepped up I think I had a good read on him before he even hit it,” Ingham said. “I kind of went on my instinct and took care of business.”
NYRB U23 kept pushing and cut K-W’s lead to one goal in the 83rd minute when Steven Echevarria’s free kick from the left found White at the right post. White finished to make it 4-3 to set up a tense final stretch.
However, New York had to play the five-minute stoppage time with 10 men when Zach Knudson picked up a second yellow card, and K-W fought off the Red Bulls U23 the rest of the way for the championship.
K-W United FC becomes the third Canadian club to earn a PDL title, joining the Thunder Bay Chill (2008) and FC London (2012).
PDL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
2015: K-W United FC
2014: Michigan Bucks
2013: Austin Aztex
2012: FC London
2011: Kitsap Pumas
2010: Portland Timbers U23s
2009: Ventura County Fusion
2008: Thunder Bay Chill
2007: Laredo Heat
2006: Michigan Bucks
2005: Des Moines Menace
2004: Central Florida Kraze
2003: Cape Cod Crusaders
2002: Cape Cod Crusaders
2001: Westchester Flames
2000: Chicago Sockers
1999: Chicago Sockers
1998: San Gabriel Valley
1997: Central Coast Roadrunners
1996: Central Coast Roadrunners
1995: Richmond Kickers