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2013 RAPTOR SOCCER
Park Wolfpack Recap September 5
September 7, 2013East Ridge Boys Soccer
When you get the game schedule for the first time, the natural tendency is quickly scan down the listing. Eyes are drawn to certain games in particular. On Thursday, we played one of those games. Not only was it the first of SEC play, but it was an 833 Derby against a team we have never beaten…Park.
Park, with a 2-0-2 series lead entering the game, must have felt right at home in the Den as they immediately looked to establish territorial control through aggressive, physical play. The nifty Raptors, having taken on a number of physical teams in their first 3 games, recognized the tactic and were quick to respond with direct play that put Connor into a foot race break for the Park goal. Connor won but his separation was not enough to win a clean shot that went out for a corner.
For the next 15 minutes, the game was a ticky-tack affair that favored Park in terms of possession, territory and danger. The Ref controlled things tightly never allowing for an escalation or a chance of retribution. To his credit, he kept the cards in his pocket and dispensed his justice through stern words, steely stares, and expressive arm waving. At times, he looked like Michael Phelps doing the butterfly.
During this time, it was the backline of Toast, KZ, Calvin, and Kris that held sway. Working together as an integrated, interweaving hockey line…they worked, covered, pushed, and pulled together. Park had to be content with testing Knight from outside the box and he was equal to every challenge. Their main offensive threat came from Merlinesque throw-ins that tested the defensive center. Like the old Atari game Missile Command, the Raptors defense was equal to every salvo. Calvin’s play, in particular, was noteworthy. With growing confidence and more aggressive play, Calvin continues to show his talent and importance to the team. He was quick and decisive in his play which relieved pressure while advancing the Raptor cause.
Slowly, the game swung the Raptors way as they began to string together possession in combination with speed. Samo cunning as ever in the middle, looked to switch the fields…stopped, pivoted and saw a brief flash of white gold to his right. That streak of white gold was Connor breaking and Samo feathered a ball to Connor’s feet. Connor then beat 2 defenders but his shot was deflected out by the goalie. 25 minutes into the game, the high powered Raptors offense finally had their first shot.
Then it was Danny’s turn. Like a bull in a china shop, Danny aggressively barged through the right side of the Park defense and won a corner. Samo, who can make a living off corners, provided a professional stroke by putting to Toast whose shot is cleared off the line by a Park defender in the corner. That was better…but not done as the ball was then cleared out to an arriving Keelan. Keelan, with his bubble-wrapped wrist, shook off some rust and pounded the ball back into the middle and Toast…still posting up in the paint…flicked it just wide of the goal. That was the best chance of the game and a clear portend of things to come.
Then it was Jarrod’s turn. Jarrod, knowing many of the Park players having played with them in club, must have been frustrated with his lack of touches and opportunities…but he went close after being fed by Austin in a nifty build-up with Samo and Connor. The keeper’s splendid save was the difference. That’s soccer.
Raptors were definitely finding a groove, but were reminded that Park Wolfpack has some bite. They quickly countered and ultimately found space behind the defensive line. That space was created by the discerning ‘step up’ of the defensive line that created the offside position. The goal that followed was disallowed as KZ wryly smiled and took a long kick.
Play foundered for a number of minutes until Zack was sent down the right by Raj. The Raptor rocketman was able to beat his defender and like so many other goals, he centered beautifully to a charging Connor. Connor, whose vision of the field is becoming Omni-like, dummied wonderfully…passing through his legs to a free standing Baley. Grateful for the gift, and frankly a bit gassed from the long off ball run, Baley one timed a strong shot that likely blackened the Park keeper’s eyes in the days to come. Good wood…on goal. Lucky save.
There would be two more ops…one with Jarrod narrowly missing a run through and Zack hitting the pipe from the right as the half ends 0-0. The Derby was alive and well. Perhaps unlucky to not have a lead, the Raptors have been here before and knew it was about choices to reach higher. Choose to continue even when it hurts. Show spirit even when there is nothing in the tank.
Raptors picked up where they left off at the end of the first. Connor had clearly made his choice as he muscled through two defenders down the right. His dangerous centering pass at the top of the box went through no less than 8 players without a touch. Park then have a spell of possession and danger and go close with a hard shot just wide.
Like two heavyweight boxers, the teams went at each other. But the Raptor blows were more telling. More effective. More dangerous. More sapping. Connor wins a foul deep. Samo’s shot is saved. Connor wins a corner. Raj heads just wide. Back come Park…win a corner and go just wide. Zack counters and wins a corner. Samo is short but an enterprising KZ keeps it in…to Connor who shoots just wide.
Then the cramping started.
First Samo. Then a Park player. In between, Connor blasts at the Park keeper ferociously. The keeper does well to save and hold. Does he still have breath after that one? KZ takes a long kick after a cramping restart and puts the ball to Austin in the middle and is fouled from behind. With Samo out, the kicking honors go to Connor in this position on the field. Connor lines up an informal kick and takes it quickly. It is another blast. In fact, it is an absolutely howitzer! The keeper cannot hold this one…and a big rebound plops out to Austin. With glee of a kid on Christmas morning, Austin giddily passes home the ball into the net and just like that, the Raptors are up 1-0. 20 minutes to play.
Fans are still celebrating, high-fiving, talking about the deserved nature of things, when they see Connor once again taking ownership of the moment. He sees the Rocketman into space…and at speed Zack bursts through the defensive line and is in on goal. His finish, like so many, is simple and classy. Did anyone catch the time on this? 20 seconds? 10 seconds between goals? All that mattered was that it was 2-0.
Park was utterly deflated by this turn as they suspected the game was over at that moment. While lamenting, they almost gave up another goal. This woke them up and as they knew maximum effort was now needed. Deploying their speed merchant down the right and into space…there was a race to a ball deep down the Raptors’ left. Like Tarzan of the Jungle, KZ swung into action and gracefully slid-tackled the ball out of bounds as the Park player tumbled over him. Good ‘no call’ on the textbook tackle. Park player was down and out which led to an extended delay that cooled the Raptors for a bit.
There would be more chances for the Raptors and one splendid, if not lucky, save by Knight to see things off for the Raptors as they go 4-0 for the season…1-0 in the SEC…and win their first game ever against Park. Knight and the defense had another clean sheet…their 3rd in 4 games.
This was a big win and keeps momentum for the team that is now ranked #8 in State. Things continue to get tougher though with games against White Bear on Tuesday in the Nest, and Cretin away on Thursday. This was a better performance than the Blaze, but still not complete. There is still some gelling necessary…and some consistency in play. The tendency to play direct and over the midfield is a dangerous way to live…and the Raptors created more through their switching and use of open space. But…a Derby win…regardless of how it looks, is always good.