Fairbanks Soccer Club captures Last Frontier Division for first time
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Soccer Club entered Saturday’s 2021 United Premiere Soccer League season finale with a chance to win the Last Frontier Division. However, they needed to defeat division-leading Pioneer United FC by four goals to claim the title by goal-differential, a club they fell 2-0 to in their only meeting this season.
Things went according to plan for Fairbanks to start the game, as keeper James Aleshire launched a full-pitch pass to Daniel Crutcher, who gained control of the ball with his head before punching the ball in with his feet to get FSC on the board early. Pioneer United quickly erased the lead moments later with a header off a free kick to knot the game at one goal apiece.
Neither team was able to break the barrier for the remainder of the half, leaving Fairbanks with 45 minutes to come up with a four-goal advantage over the top team in the division.
Veteran Cole Daniel’s diving header just three minutes into the second half gave Fairbanks hope, finding the back of the net once again in the 65th minute, when Josh Million used his noggin to put one in off the foot of Skylar Denny to make it 3-1.
A penalty from Fairbanks inside the box gave United an opportunity to trim the deficit, doing so successfully with a penalty kick in the 71st minute, with both the clock and the goal-differential shrinking.
The previous Skyler-to-Million connection on a free kick worked out so well, that the duo ran it back to climb the lead back up to two. Now in desperation mode to capture the title, Million returned the favor to Denny in the 87th minute, setting him up in front of the net with a cross and Fairbanks SC were eying the championship, but still needed to find the back of the net one more time with just minutes to go.
Crutcher scored four goals in his last two games with the Club, but none were more incredible or more important than in the season finale with a championship on the line. In stoppage time, Crutcher received a pass waist-level in front of the net, but slightly behind him. Thinking quickly on his feet, Crutcher lifted his leg behind him, connected the ball with his heel and into the net for the spectacular ‘scorpion’ goal.
“It was just a little backheel, I am surprised it went in.” Crutcher said afterwards.
“It was amazing, probably the best goal I have ever seen in this league to be honest.” Denny added.
The miraculous goal completed the miraculous feat of defeating Pioneer United 6-2 to win the Last Frontier Division for the first time.
The idea of the Fairbanks Soccer Club and the UPSL to provide a competitive environment that raises the standard of play, specifically for those at the high school or collegiate level. Crutcher and Denny, teammates at North Pole High School who had their senior season taken away due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, were each able to take advantage of the opportunity and extend their soccer careers.
“It opened up my vision more to see what else I can do, maybe go play soccer somewhere else now,” Crutcher said who currently plays Tier III Junior Hockey for the Great Falls Americans in the North American 3 Hockey League.
“Game footage,” Denny said of one of the benefits the Club has provided for him. “I didn’t have any game footage in high school. All of these games have been filmed and it has just helped with going to the next level.”
Million, who scored a pair of goals while assisting on another, also recognized how important this opportunity to play in a developmental league is.
“I am just glad they made this semi-pro club here, it wasn’t available when I was younger. I think it is going to give a lot of young kids a lot of opportunities to advance their play.” Million said.
Kyler Renner, the captain of Fairbanks Soccer Club and former collegiate soccer player, highlighted keeper James Aleshire, who is entering his sophomore year of high school and started in net for the Last Frontier Division Champions.
“This club is meant to allow a player like James to shine. He can send that tape out to professional coaches, to college coaches and they can see that a 15-year old kid is out here with a commanding presence and making game-winning saves,” Renner said. “A player like him is going to be able to showcase himself earlier here and better, because he is playing against better competition and he is playing against better players, and that is exactly what this club is about.”
Renner went on to express that the way the team pulled off the stunner Saturday embodies the work the team puts in.
“I look around at the guys on the squad and I just have a ton of confidence in what they’re capable of bringing to the table,” he said after the victory. “We have been working all season long and it paid off. Making sure that nobody that is going to outwork us and if we got as much or more talent than they do, and we are working harder than they do? There is no way that we are going to lose that game.”
Fairbanks Soccer Club wraps up its second season as an organization as division champions and the team to beat heading into 2022.
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