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A New Era Begins: Central Florida Crusaders NISL Team Makes Debut

Soccer in a basketball arena? YES.

NISL, Crusaders, Soccer
A pregame view of Addition Financial Arena prior to the debut of the Central Florida Crusaders indoor soccer teams.
Photo: Nick Porcelli

It was a historic day at Addition Financial Arena, as both the men’s and women’s teams of the Central Florida Crusaders of the National Indoor Soccer League (NISL) played their inaugural home games.

The Tom Traxler-coached teams faced off against the Memphis Americans, whose women’s team is the defending league champions, while the men’s team was last year’s runner-up.

In a day that saw high scoring, players hoping boards and power plays in a soccer game, let’s discuss how the first two indoor soccer games at Addition Financial Arena went.

Women’s Game: Memphis 9, Central Florida 6

The Crusaders’ women’s team lost by the score of 9-6.

The game was a back-and-forth affair for the first three quarters, with no team being able to get a multi-goal lead. However, when forward Louise McGirt scored at the buzzer to end the third quarter and give the Americans a two-goal lead. The team was able to break away in the fourth quarter, despite losing starting goalie Angel Hailey who was taken out on a stretcher. American’s head coach Corey Adamson would later say Hailey’s test “came back negative”. and she looked like she was going to be okay.

The Crusaders managed to get 10 shots off. The team was penalized 4 times and went 1-4 on the penalty kill. On the contrary, they went 0-3 on the power play.

The game was a homecoming for a couple of players on the Crusaders’ roster. Forward Yvonne Hayes, defender Lauren Sobel, midfielder Bridget Callahan, and goalkeeper Michelle Melo are all UCF Knights alumni.

“We wanted to identify ourselves with the community here on campus,” Traxler said. “That was very important. And that’s the reason we’re wearing black and gold, is to establish ourselves and identify with the students here on campus. So to have two players that played for their women’s team play for us was, job number one, was to get some.”

Hayes, the team’s captain, scored twice, one of which was the Crusaders’ first goal in team history. She did however commit two of the team’s four penalties. Sobel and Callahan both went scoreless and didn’t emit any penalties. Melo faced 12 shot attempts and made four saves.

Men’s Game: Central Florida 9, Memphis 8 (OT)

The Crusaders’ men’s team won in overtime by the score of 9-8. The team was at one point down 3 goals but managed to come back. Thanks to a two-man advantage, they managed to tie the game with less than two minutes left and then they scored less than a minute into overtime.

The team was led by forwards Raphael Tobias and Maycon Franca, both of whom scored hat tricks with Tobias also getting two assists.

The team committed 5 penalties and went two-for-five on the penalty kill. They were 1-4 on the power play, while also giving up one shorthanded goal.

The Crusaders fired 14 shots while giving up 17.

The Crusaders will be back in action on February 18th. They will face the NISL’s other new team, the Tampa Bay Strikers, at Addition Financial Arena.