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2013 RAPTOR SOCCER
White Bear Lake Recap September 10
September 14, 2013East Ridge Boys Soccer
Mood. The dictionary defines it at as “a state of quality of feeling at a particular time”. The Raptors were definitely in the mood when they took on White Bear at the Nest Tuesday night. The resulting 3-0 win brings their record to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in the SEC. These are good starts but it is the first half of the Bear game that left people absolutely breathless.
After coming off a lack luster performance against Burnsville, and a hard fought yet inconsistent effort over Park, many were wondering what we were to see from the Raptors. Sporting a historically high rank of #3 in State, would their play be worthy of rank? Or would the weight of perception be too burdensome and clip the high flying Raptors down to size.
The Bears are notorious foes. For years the boys have battled one another. It hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it has been down right nasty at times. The Bears are historic underachievers…but they have some bite and could very well sneak in under the cover of darkness and raid the Raptors nest of its young.
This was not to be the case.
The Raptors started brightly. For those who watch Barcelona or Arsenal, the opening stretch of possession seems to set the mood, tempo and rhythm of what was about to happen. The Bears had to be content with the chase. Whenever they pounced…the ball was gone. They would look up only to see it on the other side of the field.
Keelan Spencer was the fulcrum on which the ball would swing back and forth. His mates in the center, Samuel Ruiz-Plaza (Samo) and Austin Bunnell combined well and relieved any pressure by swinging it back to the defensive line of Alec Tostenrud (Toast) and Joseph Kays (KZ). They in turn would swing the ball far outside to their flanking defensive mates Calvin Zachman and Kris Broughton. This had a mesmerizing effect on the Bears who slowed and watch the ball dance back and forth.
Then like a thunder bolt, the ball would be thrown forward. Zack Boerjan down the right…or Ashwin (Raj) Kolla in the center left. But it was Connor Stevenson, such a keen part of the set-up of previous game goals, who found space behind the defense after a exquisitely weighted pass by Zack. Connor had some work to do including shaking off any sort of goal-scoring-drought-pressure to finish nicely under the keeper. The goal was deserved and everyone saw it coming. But the relief from the crowd was that Connor had finally scored his first goal of the season. Getting him on track is crucial for the season.
Raj and Zack had several opportunities to double the advantage after combining well. And so it went. On one side Zack attacked and swooped with speed and precision. On the other, the Bears were mystified by Raj’s attack. Then Samo would add his Latin flair to proceedings and the result was a sumptuous meal of opportunities that were enticingly close…but just off. The crowd giddily lapped it up. How could the score be only 1-0?
Toast then made it 2-0 on a header from a Samo corner. In the excitement and music playing, people forgot to look at the ref who had signaled a push. No goal. Still 1-0.
Until Connor found space again behind the Bears defense. This time it was Keelan who feathered one softly to Connor. Like the first, there was a bit to do…but he has been there and done that. Connor knows how to finish this type of ball. 2-0.
Less than a minute later Zack and Connor give and go…Zack giving the ball back to Connor and his hot hand…rather, foot. Connor’s blast is true but it hits off the crossbar and lands impossibly in the hands of the beaten Bear keeper. Kris Kringle could not have provided a more perfectly placed present. That was a one in a million shot. 1 inch more under the bar and that ball goes off the back of the keeper and is a goal.
Then Connor reciprocates to Zack by finding him breaking down the right into space. He muscles through 2 defenders and is in on goal. His shot hits the upright. REALLY? Come on!!! Connor and Zack combine once more before half with Connor blasting a left footed shot that finds its way through a crowd only to be saved brilliantly by the Bear keeper. Half…Raptors 2-0 over the Bears.
For those watching, this was as good as it gets in terms of elegantly flowing soccer. Even non-soccer fans dragged to the game suddenly understood ‘the beautiful game’. They may not be fans, but they now have a glimpse into a parallel universe of football.
The 2nd half started where the Raptors left off. Raj was the spearhead in these attacks and could have easily had 2 goals…the 2nd of which might haunt his dreams tonight. Bunnell will also be wondering about a couple of chances he had from afar. Jarrod got into the act as well going just wide on occasion.
It was probably too much to ask that the play continue at the breathless pace and elegance of the first half…and so it did diminish like the Elves leaving Middle Earth. Yet, there would be one more magical moment. KZ took a long goal kick that was flicked on by Jarrod to Samo breaking down the right. Like Legolas bringing down the Mumakil in the Return of the King, Samo swashbuckled forward beating his defender than exploding for a tight angled shot that went brilliantly into the net. This was Premiership caliber stuff. Goal of the year nominee…ESPN Top 10 worthy. Samo's first goal of the year is a gem. Mobbed by his appreciative teammates one could just pick out someone saying "that still only counts as one!!!"
The boisterous crowd appreciated the moment. I am told it was ‘dirty’. I think that means ‘incredible’ in normal speak. Regardless, we are all better for having watched it.
The 3-0 scoreline would hold. There would be a couple of moments of danger thwarted by the back line but the Raptors were in command and saw the game off in clinical fashion.
The Bears will be happy with the 3-0 scoreline. It was flattering given the nature of things. The Raptors showed sophistication and a cutting edge and could have easily scored 8 goals. The Bears struggled to get forward through a midfield that would not relent.
Next up is Cretin Derham Hall away on Thursday. This test will be much sterner.