Central Methodist takes home first national championship in school history

Central Methodist takes home first national championship in school history

By Pete Scantlebury, NAIA Manager of Athletics Communications

IRVINE, Calif. -- Two teams separated by a 45-minute drive on MO-240 needed to travel to Irvine, Calif., to settle a conference rivalry.

This time, it was for a national championship.

After playing to a 0-0 draw in early October, Missouri Valley defeated Central Methodist 2-1 in the Heart of America conference finals a month later. Both teams received automatic berths to the 2018 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, as the regular-season champion and the tournament champion.

This all-Heart, all-Show Me State finale was once again settled by the slimmest of margins: After a 2-2 tie through 90 minutes and two overtime periods, Central Methodist won 4-3 on penalty kicks.

RELATED: Final Stats | Final Bracket

For a game full of star players (six combined from both teams made the 2018 NAIA All-Tournament Team), it was a 5-foot-8 freshman from Spain that made three of the biggest plays.

Marcos German, already credited with an assist on a corner kick that knotted the game 1-1 before halftime, didn’t waste any time in the second half. He collected a deflected ball about 15 yards out from goal, and slotted a low, bouncing shot by Missouri Valley goalkeeper Patrick Irankunda to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead in the 47th minute.

Missouri Valley tied the game in the 70th minute after a Luka Glusevic free kick was sent in by Ruben Jimenez.

In the 81st minute, German – diminutive compared to 6-foot-4 CMU goalkeeper Vince Gelei – headed a Missouri Valley shot off the line to preserve the tie and send the game to overtime. His goal, assist and block eventually guided his team to the penalty kicks that decided the game.

“We always talk about at practice, the two players, whoever is at the post, they have to be ready,” Gelei said. “I think this is one of our biggest strengths of our team, we fight together, no matter what their position is.

“I was scared a bit but I trusted my players, and this is what happens. We won.”

“He did a lot of great things this tournament, and he did a lot of great things all year,” Central Methodist coach Alex Nichols said. “Most importantly, he’s a team player who knows that every one of his teammates was just as important.”

German was one of the stars of the tournament for Alex Nichols’ Eagles side, leading them to their first national championship in school history. Making their first appearance in the NAIA men’s soccer postseason, the slight freshman from Camarma de Estruelas outside of Madrid collected three goals and three assists in four games.

"Winning this championship is the best I've been in my career," German said.

The first goal of the championship game came in the 19th minute. Off a corner kick by Missouri Valley midfielder Luka Gluscevic, Gianmarco Donnini headed the ball into the goal to stake the Vikings to a 1-0 lead.

It was the same duo that connected for the game-winner against top-seeded William Carey in the semifinals; Donnini, a defender, entered the postseason with two goals. He doubled that in the final two games.

From that point, Central Methodist went on the attack, pushing the pace and looking for a chance. It found that moment in the 40th minute. German curled a corner kick into the box and Rodrigo Paredes headed it home for the equalizer.

In penalty kicks, Gelei made two saves to give the Eagles the advantage. His last save was by the skin of his teeth. He got his fingertips on the shot, directing it to the post. The ball ricocheted out of bounds.

Alberto Pangrazzi then slotted his attempt into the net, sending the Eagles into a frenzy and – eventually – engraving their name as the 60th NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship.

It was another heartbreak for Vladimir Simic’s Missouri Valley side, which lost in overtime in the 2017 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship.

“We had good chances that we didn’t take advantage of and in the end, penalties are a lottery,” Simic said after the game.

The trophy will be coming to Fayette, Mo., and Nichols said the impact this win was built on the support of the entire Central Methodist community.

“It’s for everybody,” Nichols said. “And at CMU, you’re a unit, and every single coach is so supportive and every single coach means a lot to all of this. Every single professor means a lot to this. It’s a tight-night school, so everything is interrelated.

“It’s special for everybody.”

2018 NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship All-Tournament Team

Position Player Team
Forward Teren Schuster Cardinal Stritch (Wis.)
Forward Yuri Farkas Madonna (Mich.)
Forward Adrian Gutierrez Central Methodist (Mo.)
Forward Stefan Cvetanovic Oklahoma Wesleyan
Midfielder Liam Heywood Cardinal Stritch (Wis.)
Midfielder Rodrigo Paredes Central Methodist (Mo.)
Midfielder Michael Conejero William Carey (Miss.)
Midfielder Johnny Buckle William Carey (Miss.)
Defender Mitchell Osmond Rio Grande (Ohio)
Defender Marcos German Central Methodist (Mo.)
Defender Gianmarco Donnini Missouri Valley
Defender Noah Dalle Missouri Valley
Goalkeeper Joe Smith Madonna (Mich.)
Goalkeeper Patrick Irankunda Missouri Valley
Most Outstanding Offensive Teren Schuster Cardinal Stritch (Wis.)
Most Outstanding Defensive Marcos German Central Methodist (Mo.)
Most Valuable Rodrigo Paredes Central Methodist (Mo.)

Championship Information

NAIA Men's Soccer Championship

Nov. 22-23, 2019 Opening Round – 
Campus Sites

Dec. 2 - Dec. 7, 2019
OC Great Park Soccer Stadium, 
Irvine, Calif.