Wellington (Saturday 7/1)- The Palm Beach Pumas defeated the streaking Cocoa Expos 3-1 in an important divisional match in the race to the PDL Southern Conference Playoffs. The first place Central Florida Kraze was upset 4-1 by last place Ajax Orlando. The Bradenton Academics drew to the Richmond Kickers 2-2 and beat the Northern Virginia Royals 4-2 putting their club in first place with 22 points. The Pumas travel to Bradenton on Wednesday for a critical match in the playoff race. Bradenton has played one extra game.
Palm Beach controlled possession most of the game on Saturday. Ben Ward scored an early goal in the first 4 minutes inside the 6 yard box after the Pumas strung together 6 passes starting from their defensive third.
The teams would head into halftime at 1-0. Shortly after, Cocoa’s Pete Marino slipped through two Puma marking backs to score the Expos only goal. The Pumas struck back 2 minutes later when Pavel Cancura hit the back of the net from 20 yards out off a rebound from a free kick. The coffin was nailed shut when the injured Stephen Hogan came off the bench to score in the last 5 minutes.
Perhaps the highlight of the game was the play of the Pumas goalkeeper Anthony Handy saving key shots to keep Cocoa off the scoreboard most of the game. Cocoas former standout striker and former MLS veteran Pete Marino could not finish most of his chances.
Pavel Cancura had his best day as a second year Puma playing a solid game on the left side providing the Pumas much needed balance throughout the match.
Coach Bobby Lennon said, “It was a pleasure watching this game. The players did their jobs and did it on their own. This is the third game in a row where the team has displayed qualities of playoff squad. I am proud of the development of our players. I think our defenders are playing very well and the play of Anthony Handy and Pavel Cancura is very inspiring. I feel good because we are winning games while young players continue to develop. Of course player development is what this league is about.”