In regard to creating scoring opportunities, Archbishop Curley soccer coach Barry Stitz felt his squad turned in one of its strongest performances of the 2016 season, Wednesday, when the second-ranked Friars hosted No. 4 McDonogh in East Baltimore.
Unfortunately for Curley, those scoring opportunities did not translate into goals and it opened the door for a dramatic finish for the visiting Eagles. McDonogh netted the game’s only goal, with 2 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the second overtime to pull out a 1-0 MIAA A Conference road victory.
Dominated in the early going, McDonogh slowly built momentum and evened the flow of the contest as the second half progressed. After a scoreless first overtime and not many quality chances in the second extra session, the Eagles struck with suddenness.
The winning sequence began with junior Casey Settleman created some space on the right side before lofting an arching pass towards the far post. Senior Dexter Lacovara ran onto the ball and unloaded a blast into the chest of Curley goalkeeper Nathan Wdzieczkowski. Wdzieczkowski made the initial save but could not hang onto the ball, which rebounded to the foot of junior Aiden Welsh. Welsh responded with another rocket which ripped into the net, sending the Eagles into a jubilant celebration.
“I heard Dex calling for it, so I let Dex have it and I just peeled off and it came right to me,” said Welsh of his goal. “I was surprised and I just banged it in the back of the net, and it was a great feeling.”
“Casey did a lot of great work down the wing and just whipped in a ball,” added Lacovara. “I saw it coming and I just wanted to smash it as hard as I can. Unfortunately the keeper saved it from me, but Welsh was there.”
In the early going it would have been hard to imagine the Friars would be held scoreless. In the third minute, Alejandro Arbelaez slid a cross into the box for Nick Richardson who drilled the left post. The Friars would go on to hit the crossbar on three occasions in the opening half and misfired on a few other great scoring chances. It would come back to haunt them.
“It’s been an issue for us all year. Scoring goals, given the amount of possession, the number of chances we had and we don’t score goals,” said Stitz. “In our losses or ties, generally it’s been the same theme, we don’t make plays in the box. It’s not any one guy. We just have to find ways to put the ball in the net.”
McDonogh began to gain some momentum in the middle of the second half and put some pressure on the Friars, who lost their early offensive rhythm.
“That’s a good team. We let them hang around and they made a play at end,” added Stitz. “That’s the difference in soccer. That’s a good team we played against and probably the most quality chances we had against a quality team all year.”
McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta admitted that it was not a pretty game, but explained that his squad did exactly what was necessary to escape with a victory.
“The reality is we dodged a few bullets early. They hit the post. They were the better team for much of the first half.” said Quaranta. “In the second half I thought we settled in a little bit. Not that we were playing great soccer, but we were battling. We looked more comfortable. I thought we were looking to play more attacking soccer at that point.
“As we told the boys, it wasn’t going to be a masterpiece today, but we were going to have to grind and then try to find a way late in the game to win it. I thought we scored a great goal there to get the three points and I was proud of them for that.”
The victory allowed McDonogh (9-3, 6-3) to move within striking distance of first place in the MIAA A Conference. The Eagles now have 18 points, one behind Curley (9-3-2, 6-2-1) and four back of Mount St. Joseph and Calvert Hall, who are tied for first place with 22 points each. The top four squads are all battling for one of the two top seeds which would provide a first round bye in the playoffs.
“I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in the result,” said Stitz. “We want that first round bye. In this league you don’t want to play an extra game that you don’t have to play and we didn’t do ourselves any favors today.”
NO. 4 MCDONOGH 1, NO. 2 ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 0, 2OT
MCD 0 0 – 0 1 — 1
AC 0 0 – 0 0 — 0
SAVES: MCD-Little 7; AC-Gentry 0, Wdzieczkowski 4.