PORTLAND – Christopher Tsonis took advantage of the best bounce he got all night.

With less than 10 minutes left in the first half of a first-round playoff game, Portland Phoenix goalie Matt Williams came well out of his crease to defend against the New Hampshire Phantoms’ forward. Williams went to the ground in an attempt to deflect the ball away from Tsonis, but the attempt was futile.

With the ball at his feet and a pair of Portland’s defenders on either side of him, Tsonis shot at an open net, scoring the only goal in New Hampshire’s 1-0 win over the Phoenix.

Tuesday at Deering’s Memorial Field, Tsonis’ goal in the 36th minute — his ninth goal of the season — helped the Phantoms eliminate the Phoenix from an Eastern Conference quarterfinal of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League playoffs.

The Phantoms (8-6-3) handed the Phoenix (8-4-5) their first home loss this season, and the Phantoms will face the Long Island (N.Y.) Rough Riders on Friday in an Eastern Conference semifinal.

The Phoenix worked through a game marked by physical play and after Tsonis’ goal, Portland continued to put pressure on New Hampshire’s defense. In the final two minutes of the first half, New Hampshire goalie Jon Dawson snagged a shot off a corner kick to preserve the Phantoms’ 1-0 lead going into halftime.

But less than 15 minutes into the second half, the rain began and first lightning bolt struck, the start of more than an hour’s delay. The two teams didn’t resume playing until 10:40 p.m., and the Phoenix immediately created two scoring chances in front of the Phantoms goal.

The Phoenix were awarded the first of five second-half corner kicks after the delay, and in the 64 th minute, Portland forward Charlie Rugg picked up a rebound and sent a shot that appeared to be a guaranteed goal, but instead hit the crossbar above Dawson.

After Rugg hit the crossbar, Portland continued to create chances deep in New Hampshire’s end of the field, and Dawson made several diving saves to keep the Phoenix scoreless, including a stop with his back nearly turned at the start of extra time.

In extra time, the Phoenix were unable to score on a direct kick from more than 30 yards out, and could not convert their final corner kick.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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