Maryland soccer team are SLISA 2011 champions

3 August 2011 at 23:28 | 2318 views

By Dennis Kabatto, New York.

Maryland soccer team over the weekend emerged as the new Sierra Leone Inter-State Association (SLISA) 2011 Tournament champions after they beat Pennsylvania 1-0 in Los Angeles, California, SLISA officials said.

Officials also said that the 2011 tournament was dedicated to the memory of Akie G. Noah former Leone Stars, Ports Authority mid-fielder and coach of the host team Leone Stars of California as well as to the memory of their former goalkeeper Jerome Lemons both of whom passed away earlier this year.

Though organizers anticipated twelve states to compete for this year’s championship, only ten teams actually participated. Delaware, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey were said to be visibly missing in action from the competition. The tournament divided into three groups comprised of California, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia in Group A; Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas in Group B and Arizona, Ohio and Washington, DC in Group C.

“The tournament was 90 percent successful,” said Sentu Johnson president of SLISA. “Despite the varying work schedules of team members and not to mention the traveling distance to come to California from the East Coast, we still had 10 teams represented, that is a huge success. It is not the soccer games per se, actually for me it was the reunion, getting to meet fellow Sierra Leoneans we haven’t seen for years, celebrating, eating Salone foods and basically Sierra Leoneans just coming together that’s what really mattered,” Mr Johnson admitted.

The ten-team tournament started at 10:00 a.m. with qualifying games between three groups. Virginia led Group A with an easy stroll into the quarter-finals after easily thrashing Massachusetts 3-0 and New York 3-0 respectively. California and New York also proceeded to the quarter-finals while Massachusetts was eliminated, Mr. Kamara said.

Score table analysis

SLISA Secretary-General Thomas Kamara said due to time constraints, the games were not the typical full length 90 minute soccer people are accustomed to but rather each match lasted for 25 minutes.

According to Mr Kamara, the quarter-finals were the most exciting and memorable moments especially during the penalty kicks between California and neighboring Arizona. The shoot-out resembled cowboys in a wild western movie fighting to gain control of a disputed territory. In other clashes, Maryland edged out Virginia 1-0 while Pennsylvania took a two goal lead to flush out Ohio; and host team California beat neighboring Arizona 4-2 by penalty kicks. Washington, DC had no problem taking out New York 1-0, officials said.

During the semi-finals Maryland thrashed Washington DC convincingly by 4 to 1. In the second game, Pennsylvania eliminated California 4-2 on penalties.

From Mr. Kamara’s point of view, the final match between Maryland and Pennsylvania was intense and a fitting conclusion of the tournament. Both sides played remarkable soccer, demonstrated equal strength in defensive and offensive plays but allowed less goal scoring chances. “The final break came as Maryland capitalized on a lapse in concentration by the Pennsylvania defense while, ironically, protesting an apparent dubious call by the referee. That goal meant Maryland is once again champions of Sierra Leone Interstate Soccer - USA,” Mr Kamara concluded.

Numerous Calls and text messages to Henry Johnson, team manager of Maryland seeking comments on the alleged ‘dubious call by the referee” that gave Maryland an edge were unsuccessful.

SLISA officials asserted that next year’s tournament will be a two day competition scheduled to be held in Maryland.

In Group A, Organizers said Virginia won its section outright by crushing Massachusetts 3-0, New York 3-0 respectively and a 2-2 draw with California. New York defeated Massachusetts 1-0 to advance to the quarter-finals and California eliminated Massachusetts with a lone goal to secure a position in the quarter-finals

Pennsylvania won Group B by beating Maryland 1-0 and Texas 2-0, while Maryland qualified for the quarter-final by eliminating Texas by a 2-0 win.

Arizona beat Ohio 1-0 and manhandled Washington, DC 5-0 to secure the lead in Group C. Ohio came in second by a 3-1 defeat over Washington, DC. However, Washington, DC was able to secure a qualification spot into the quarter-finals as the best wild card team.

In the first quarter-final match Pennsylvania sent Ohio packing with a 2-0 defeat. In the second quarter-finals, host state California were victorious over neighboring Arizona by 4-2 from penalty kicks. Washington, DC regulated New York 1-0 Maryland knocked off Virginia 1-0 to proceed to the semi-finals

In the first semi finals, Maryland with no pity defeated Washington DC convincingly by 4-1. In the second semi-finals match, Pennsylvania knocked out the hosts California 4-2 by penalties.

Maryland emerged as the champions of the SLISA 2011 Tournament through a 20th minute goal during the second half with five minute remaining for the end of the game. A challenge by Pennsylvania was overruled by the referee and SLISA officials.

Maryland’s team manager Henry Johnson did not returned numerous calls seeking comments.

Some SLISA executives, left to right: Cecil Swaray, Thomas Kamara and Sentu Johnson.