Hollywood United FC's decision in early spring to shift from the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Development League to its more economical rival has brought great dividends. The Hitmen are headed to the National Premier Soccer League's final four.
Former Loyola Marymount standout Nick Blanco scored just before halftime and HUFC used a two-man advantage to its benefit to carve out a 1-0 triumph Saturday night over defending NPSL champion Sacramento Gold in the Western Division final at Crenshaw High School.
Hollywood United (13-2-1), coached by former Galaxy forward Jose Botello, advances to the July 28-30 NPSL tournament in Madison, Ala. Milwaukee Bavarians and Georgia Revolution also have qualified for the national amateur/semipro league's final weekend, and the last slot will go to Brooklyn Italians, FC Sonic Lehigh Valley or Erie Admirals.
Sacramento (8-4-4), which upset NPSL favorite San Diego Flash in last week's divisional semifinals, was in trouble early, after Chris Sandoval was red-carded in the 27th minute for stamping on Emanuel Bentil's leg after what he considered a rough tackle.
Utodi Madu picked up his second yellow card in the 45th, leaving the Gold with nine men for the second half, and Blanco scored seconds later, sprinting inside from the left wing and firing to the top corner.
HUFC ought have added to the total through Blanco, Jose Miranda and Arturo Albarran, but Gold goalkeeper Max Herrera, a halftime substitute, made six first-class saves.