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Newtown Pride will play for $1 million prize today

The amateur team from the Connecticut Soccer League is one win away from the second-biggest purse in North American soccer.

Courtesy Newtown Pride FC

UPDATE: Newtown Pride FC won the TST final, and $1 million. You can read more here.

Forty minutes and Target Score Time: That’s all that separates Newtown Pride FC from a $1 million prize at The Soccer Tournament, the high-octane competition better known as TST. 

The team from Sandy Hook, CT that won the 2019 National Amateur Cup and nine Connecticut Soccer League titles is in the spotlight. This is the team whose chance at prize money and national coverage in both the 2020 and 2021 U.S. Open Cup was taken away with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now this very team has a match scheduled for national broadcast on CNBC at 3 pm ET. The final will also be streamed on Peacock.

Newtown’s run to the final

Newtown Pride played twice yesterday. First, there was a quarterfinal in the morning, then there was a semifinal against Sneaky Fox FC that same evening that went a lot like Newtown’s other knockout games. The team took the lead into halftime and didn’t look back. Technically speaking, Gabriel Costa’s opener in the 18th minute was unassisted. But don’t tell that to goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento, who sent a long pass from the halfway line to Costa near the endline who ended it with a shot into the roof of the net.

After the break, Newtown pounced again with a fantastic one-two-three play in the 27th. A pass found last game’s hero James Thomas-Cruz, which brought out Sneaky Fox’s Chris Toth from the net. Thomas quickly passed to Jean Ferdinand who one-touched the ball into the net to make it 2-0. A 36th-minute pass from William Eskay found Gabriel Ganzer to make it 3-0 just before indoor soccer legend Nick Perera cut into the lead with a stoppage-time penalty for Sneaky Fox.

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With Target Score Time set at 4, the teams looked to be going down to 5-vs-5. However, Issak Somow sent a pass to Kelvin Nunes on the left side. His shot got past a diving Chris Toth and between the legs of a Fox defender to slip into the goal near the right post and give Newtown the win, 4-1.

Respect for Pride

“Nobody knew us. Nobody respected us,” Newtown’s Filipe Dutra said in a post-match video. “But guess what? We’re in the final. Now, gotta respect us. We taking the bag home. This is Newtown.”

One person who found respect for Newtown Pride is West Ham FC legend Anton Ferdinand. The Center back was interviewed during the match and said he’d be wearing yellow tomorrow for the Pride, claiming they’d impressed him over the tournament.

Next opponent: All of Canada

Newtown’s final challenge will be a common New England foe: Canada. SLC FC, which stands for Sports League Canada, is the lone TST entrant from the Great White North. It represents some of the best talents from the Canadian Futsal National Team and League1 Ontario.

SLC players with professional experience include Daniel Gogarty (York9 FC, Toronto FC II), John Smits (FC Edmonton, Wilmington Hammerheads), Jarred Phillips (Atlético Ottawa), and Joseph Di Chiara (York9 FC, Calvary FC).

Despite having a high-offense team and scoring two or more goals in almost every game, the SLC’s semifinal win was a 1-0 nailbiter against ZALA FFF. Zala, led by former USMNT and Guam international AJ DeLaGarza, held SLC scoreless for 40 minutes. But early in Target Score Time, SLC’s Raheem Rose played around a defender in the box to get a successful shot into the goal.

“Nobody expected us to be here, honestly we barely expected to be here,” Rose said after the game in a TST interview.

The final: MASL vs Canadian Futsal

SLC will be Newtown’s toughest challenge yet. It’s not a youth team, and it isn’t just a famous guy gathering friends for a game. Like Newtown, SLC is built to play on small fields. This is MASL vs Canadian Futsal. Both teams have good offenses and scored a lot of goals this tournament. The Pride have the edge, 23 to 16, but that’s bolstered by an eight-goal win over Borussia Dortmund.

The clinching factor will be defense. Over the last six games, Newtown Pride have been better in that regard only allowing five goals all tournament and only allowing more than one once — and that was in the very first game. SLC meanwhile has allowed 12 with three games including three or more allowed goals.

I’m not going to pretend TST has made me an expert in 7-vs-7 soccer. But from what I’ve seen since Thursday Newtown Pride is the favorite to win it all. That’s a mix of bias and belief.

My prediction: Pride 4 – 2 SLC.