Home Local Sports Cualheiro’s hat trick leads La Cabana FC to 4th straight RASL title

Cualheiro’s hat trick leads La Cabana FC to 4th straight RASL title

Gabriel Cualheiro, who scored three goals, holds up the championship trophy and is surrounded by his teammates after Thursday's win.
Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

HAMLET — La Cabana Mexican Restaurant’s adult soccer team collected its fourth piece of hardware to add to its trophy case. 

Competing in the Richmond Adult Soccer League Championship game at Buttercup Field on Thursday against Richmond Auto Sales, La Cabana FC used a hat trick from Gabriel Cualheiro to win its fourth-straight title. 

The final score was 7-1, and the two teams competed in two 30-minute halves, five minutes longer than the regular season.

“It was a great season, and with it being the last game, we matched up well together,” Cualheiro smiled after the game. “That allowed us to achieve the amount of goals that we had.

“The game was pretty complicated and between two great teams,” he continued. “We focused on our passing and finishing outside the box, which helped us win tonight.”

Richmond Auto Sales would take an early 1-0 lead in the first minute when Joel Garcia ripped a shot past goalkeeper Omar Medrano. Garcia’s shot was a grounder that beat Medrano to his left in the lower corner.

But that lead was taken away by Cualheiro, who wrapped up his first season with the team, in the 11th minute on a shot from inside the box. And he netted his second, and the eventual game-winning goal, in the 20th minute on a blast from just inside the top left of the 18-yard box.

To cap the three-goal half for La Cabana, Kave Sousa booted in a deflected ball inside the six-yard box in the 23rd minute.

Members of La Cabana FC who have played on all four title runs are Jon Figueroa, Ulises Figueroa, Rayon Grant, Raul Maya, Medrano and Cynthia Ursua.

“It’s been a good and competitive run,” Ulises Figueroa said of the four championships. “The first three seasons another team won, and now we have the most.

“We have a bunch of college level players who helped bring our game up,” he explained. “It’s good for the restaurant and the owner, David Sedano, who is always out here coaching us.”

Out of halftime, both teams traded possessions, but it would be Ursua who scored next. She received a pass from across the box and redirected her shot into a wide open net in the 37th minute.

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Teammate Marcos Nogueira took advantage of a lapse in Richmond Auto Sales’ defense in the 50th minute, launching a shot from near midfield that sailed under the crossbar to give La Cabana FC a 5-1 lead.

A minute later, Cualheiro made a rush into the goalie box and deked the keeper for a tapper and his third goal of the game. In the 56th minute, Bruno Freitas locked up the championship win when he beat the keeper on a one-on-one charge inside the 18-yard box.

“It’s inspiring for us to win and get ready for next season,” Cualheiro said. “We’ll be stronger and having four championships in a row is great for the La Cabana team. And you can expect us next season and to make history again.”

Other members of this year’s championship team were: Rogelio Aranda, Alan Cruz, Joel Diaz, Saul Estrada, Alicia Gomez, Mariano Figueroa, Martin Hernandez, Asheton Polson, Telles Ribeiro and Sergio Suarez.

Dozens of fans brave the cold Thursday to come out and watch La Cabana FC extend its title streak, including several members of other teams. La Cabana entered the playoff bracket as the No. 3 seed with a 4-2-1 record, a spot ahead of No. 4 Richmond Auto Sales, which had the same record.

It was the first time the two teams met on the pitch since Week 2 of the regular season, which saw them draw to a 2-2 tie on Dec. 2. Both teams won big in the opening round of the playoffs, and notched their championship appearance with a respective pair of one goal wins over Richmond FC and Twisted Treats.

Richmond FC was the regular-season champion, but lost to La Cabana FC in the semifinals.

Two of RASL’s league organizers, J.R. Cottle and Wayne Millen, were on hand to watch Thursday, and Cottle said he couldn’t have asked for a better end to the 2019-2020 winter slate.

“It was a great season and every team was competitive,” Cottle remarked. “The younger teams took care of business in the end. 

“Every year we’re getting more and more parents to come out and play alongside with the college kids in the league,” he continued. “It’s keeping everyone active, which is our main goal.”

He closed by thanking all of the fans for coming out in what was “the biggest crowd for a championship game.” Cottle also tipped his cap to officials Chip Clonninger and Millen for their help on the sideline throughout the season.

ROSports will update readers when the next season of the Richmond Adult Soccer League begins its registration.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.