Crusaders Stay Perfect With Overtime Win in Tampa

TAMPA, FL - Behind five goals from Rapha Tobias and a game-winner from Eduardo Cruz, the Central Florida Crusaders remained perfect on the season, beating the Tampa Bay Strikers 12-11 on Sunday night.

Scott Flores made his debut in goal for the Crusaders, picking up his first professional win.

It would be a back-and-forth affair as Tobias and Strikers forward Quayyum Murana would trade goals on the afternoon, with both players scoring five apiece. 

A goal from midfield by Tobias would level things at 2-2 after Murana's first two goals, but then Abdullah Alzubaidi would add a third, with Murana securing his hat trick shortly after. 

The Crusaders would respond as Haroldo Campos would find Alexandre Texeira to chip in a goal, but the Strikers would again come back with two goals of their own from Murana and Skylar Wilks. Just before halftime, Tobias would get his head on a long throw from Flores, pulling the Crusaders within two, at 6-4.

To start the second half, the Crusaders wasted no time as Eduardo Cruz would fire one into goal off a top-of-the-arc restart. Once again, the home side would respond, with Jonathan Jimenez heading home a loose ball. 

Things started to break for Central Florida after that, with back-to-back goals from Rodolfo Alvarez and Tobias, tying things up at 8-8 to end the third.


The deadlock would break for the Crusaders as Rodolfo Lopes backheeled a loose ball into the net to give Central Florida their first lead of the second half. Victor Rada would follow that up minutes later, taking on the entire Tampa Bay team by himself and scoring to make it 10-8. 

With minutes left, the Strikers would dig deep and pull the game level. Wilks would pull one back late in the quarter and then Diego Gonzalez hit a half bicycle kick, beating Flores and giving the lead back to the Strikers. 

Murana would then tally his fifth goal on a power play, giving the Strikers an 11-10 lead with just minutes to play.

Tobias would respond in turn, getting a pass off the wall from Victor Rada and scoring with just under two minutes to play, forcing the game into overtime.

In the extra frame, Rodolfo Lopes and Eduardo Cruz would play a quick give-and-go, with Lopes hitting the ball off the wall and drawing the keeper out of his net. Cruz was in the perfect position to tap home the game-winner and keep the Crusaders' season perfect. 

The Crusaders will now head back home this weekend, hosting the Columbus Rapids on Saturday, March 4 at 6:00 ET., while the Strikers won't play again until March 12 against the Crusaders again.