The Championship Playoffs saw a Yank on three out of four teams, but only Ethan Horvath’s Luton Town was left standing at the end of the day, after Zack Steffen and Lynden Gooch saw their teams narrowly eliminated.
Middlesbrough 0 – 1 Coventry City
Zack Steffen’s Middlesbrough loan can be judged a lot of ways, and perhaps crashing out of the playoffs will make it tough to be a glowing review.
However, the fact that the team made it to this far is a huge bonus. The American goalkeeper, potentially staying at the club long term this summer, was able to manage nine clean sheets in 42 games.
The Playoffs, played over two games, left it all to be played with the first leg in Coventry ending 0-0. Steffen made a great one-on-one save early in the game due to a poor back pass, but ultimately came up the better.
The crucial goal against came in the the 57th minute, with Steffen being caught poorly positioned inside the box, and Gustavo Hamer lifting his shot over the goalkeeper and covering defenders. The game otherwise was very back and forth, with both sides having plenty of chances.
Watch the highlights here:
Luton Town 2 – 0 Sunderland
Ethan Horvath and Luton Town played host to Lynden Gooch and Sunderland, coming away with the coveted spot in Wembley’s final, after Gooch and his teammates carried a 2-1 cushion from the first leg.
The game plan for Luton was surely simple: score early. And score early they did, with Gabriel Osho netting in the 10th minute. A corner kick fell into a mass of players and Osho was the one on hand to dispatch it home. The goal sent the tie on to level terms at 2-2.
Sunderland threw everything they had going forward, and Horvath was forced into a double save at his near post on a corner kick. Thankfully the home team avoided a scare of hand ball, as a deflection off of a defender resulted in Horvath’s second save in the sequence. No penalty was given.
Luton answered with their own goal line kerfuffle, with Gooch being toppled over for a chance or two to come while he was on the ground trying to recover from being shoved. Luton were able to acrobatically clear the ball off the line and out of the goal box.
Captain Tom Lockyer scored the series winner for the Hatters in the 43rd minute, just before the halftime whistle. A corner kick was never cleared, and ultimately Lockyer rose bravely to head home the game winner.
Credit to Luton, they did not sit back and defend for the subsequent 45 minutes. To the contrary, they attacked! Several goal line clearances, and even missed a chance in the dying moments to score on an empty net in a three versus one counter attack situation when the Sunderland goalkeeper was in the opposing box.
Horvath continues on in the Playoff Final against Coventry City on Saturday, May 27 in Wembley, and are one win away from playing in the Premier League next season.
Watch the highlights here: