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ER Raptor Calendar
2013 RAPTOR SOCCER
Mounds View Recap September 26
September 30, 2013East Ridge Boys Soccer
There is always a time of year when teams separate themselves from others. Sometimes, it is putting on a win streak that takes you to the top of the table. Sometimes it is a non-winning streak where points are dropped and chances rued. The Raptors, high flying after 16 goals over two games, have seen their fledgeling chances at their first SEC title and a sustained Top10 rank undermined by the 'goal well' drying up.
Having been shut out the last two games, the Raptors went into their, sometimes pulsating, affair with Mounds View with a healthy degree of skepticism on their chances. Not included in the event were their talisman striker Zack Boerjan. Ever the fleet foot, his stretching of the defense has been a hallmark to the early season success. Zack's Red Bull teammate Kris Broughton also nursed an injury sidelining the versatile right back from combining his incisive passing with his penetrating runs. Ashwin Kolla continued his form on the bench as he continues to work to get fit for the seasons end. With all that offensive firepower injured, Coach had to call up reinforcements. Joe Jung, fresh from the undefeated 9th grade team, was beckoned and leaving his normal defensive center back role, platooned on the left side winger as a surprsingly disruptive and engaging force.
As in the previous games, it started well. Much of this is because the Raptors build from the back...patiently swinging from right to left, left to right, forward...back...swing. At times it was mesmerizing as space began to open up upon which the Raptors would then suddenly penetrate. Relying on Danny Muntner on the right and Jarrod Ronquillo on the left, their runs provided proof that danger lies on the edge. Each time a penetrating run would be made, their focal point was on getting it to the middle...get the ball to Connor. The Mustangs packed the box as a consequence allowing the Raptors the ability to fire from distance...but nothing close. The Raptors continued to probe and jocky...testing the Mustang defense for the opportunity. The Mustang defense, sporting size and Seniors, withstood the early chances by Connor and Jarrod. Danny continued providing dangerous throws in the middle but MV seemed ready for it and crowded out the Raptors with numbers and size.
One of the most fascinating moments of these early stages was a bold run by Joseph Kays (KZ) coming forth from his deep defensive position. Man marking their central striker, KZ stepped in front of a posting pass in...intercepted and made a sensational run through the MV ranks playing a long give and go with Samo. The feeding return pass was chested around a defender...who fouled but KZ kept his feet...he then lankily shot but his effort was deflected and leaked right. He then chased it down beating two more defenders and then he passed back...the initiative lost. Despite this, KZ received acknowledging ovation and encouragement from the traveling Raptor partisans who appreciated his desire to make a difference. It was a lengthy and hurried run back to the defensive line.
This seemed to energize the Raptors some as they poured forward with new intent to not simply give up on balls. Keelan ripped a shot wide. Connor blew one over. Danny...got into a foot race with the MV Keeper and lost by the narrowest of margins resulting in a heavy collision, a hollow sounding knock, an injured keeper, and a Yellow Card. Hard to fault the effort. Hard to counter the need for Yellow. This is soccer. Things like this happen. The time out on the field also took some of the wind from the Raptor wings. MV began to press and found that they could push around the Raptor midfield. They bullied forward and took a number of shots from distance...some of which required more than a little effort and awareness by Chris Knight.
Connor recognized the danger and dropped into the midfield zone and exerted his physical presence and influence. This led to a couple of timely turnovers and craving balls forward to lively Nathan Ly. Shots continued to pour into the MV zone but none found a mark with many instead finding the wide open expanse beyond the goal mouth.
Having confirmed the veracity of the MV defensive left, the Raptors worked opposite and were finally rewarded when Keelan fed Connor breaking left. He muscled to the edge seeing a middle charging Nathan. Connor's heavenly pass to Nate was then flicked dummied at the near post to the wide open expanse of the backside of the box. No Mustangs were there. This latitude was too great to be ignored and Calvin exploded forward to secure it. With the authority and discretion of a bull in a china shop, Calvin finished an absolutely brilliant shot that almost ripped through the netting. The Raptors had their deserved lead and their partisans were more than happy. While champagne wasn't called for, there was a sense that something just popped and the seal was now broken on the goal drought. This was proven wrong as the game progressed.
The most dangerous time for a team is after there is a goal scored. How would both team react? In this case, MV pressed their size advantage into the midfield and took the game forward. They were met with stern resistance from the defensive backline but the referree began awarding the first of many questionable calls...this one against Alec Tostenrud (Toast). Some speculated he was called for being "too tall"...again. Others said it was for "hunching". Still others said it was because Jordan Weiss was doing homework instead of watching the game...regardless, it was mysterious. The Raptors held but the moment was significant in that it gave life to a MV team that seemed bereft of offensive spirit. Play continued to the Raptors advantage but MV now had a belief that they might just be able to get one. And that is exactly what they did when they innocuously penetrated forward splitting the defensive left and seizing the opportunity to take a tight angled, quick shot that found a home.
MV had stolen back the initiative with 7 minutes to play in the first half. 1-1.
Play evened out after that and the Raptors swagger was tempered. MV continued to make a number of penetrating runs suggesting they had found the key to the Raptors defense. In each instance, KZ stood as the gate keeper. Ever mindful of entrance into the promised land, KZ rebuffed attacks with several clever defensive steps, physical buttressing, and assailing anticipation. In the final minute, MV's only other real opportunity was slammed shut by an astonishing save by Knight on a breakaway. Toast was more than onhand disrupting the shot but the MV player did everything right. Knight was simply too good in the end. Half.
The second half lacked the verv of the first. Gone was the patient, flowing style that served the Raptors so well in the first. Perhaps it was tired legs...perhaps it was a formation shift...or perhaps it was a different emphasis. Regardless, the Raptors were a shell of themselves in the 2nd. The backline remained well organized...keeping everything at a distance was the only real bright spot. This makes two games in a row where the Raptors were not able respond to halftime adversity.
The midfield seemed bottled up for both sides. It looked more like a rugby scrum at times with MV benefiting from their size. Still the Raptors were able to get forward and win throws. This was a primary method of attack while Danny remained healthy (later being lost to hard knock). Three times Danny launched salvos that went close. First to Connor who could not find the room to turn at the 8 yard point. The 2nd to went to an ambitious Toast whose header scraped off the crossbar and out. Then Connor got his head on the ball straight to the keeper.
With all of our ideas expended, MV seized the initiative fortified by several questionable fouls which saw many Raptors fans taking to the streets in protest. After several anxious moments, Keelan was able to clear the zone to Connor who was crunched at the starboard mid-point. KZ addressed the kick, noted the wind and the positioning of the off-his-line keeper than unleashed a cracker that curled beautifully. The keeper, suddenly realizing the danger, scrambled back...but he was beaten. The ball was going to get to the backside, upper 90 before he could...a la Brazil's Ronny vs Englands David Seaman in the 2002 Worldcut:
Whereas this shot was 30 yards out, KZ's came from midfield. The only other difference was actually the most important one...Ronny's went in. KZ's clanged off the crossbar-post junction denying what would have been a truly astonishing goal. Perhaps it was that last little gust of wind at 1.7 seconds of the 2.73 second flight to the goal that made a difference. 4-6 inches would have been telling. We will never know.
While the Raptors continued to mount spotted attacks forward through a more enterprising Samo, the attack increasingly fell victim to MV's willingness to defend in numbers. When they did attack, it was on the counter and via direct play. The midfield continued to be no-man's land where middies went in to be cannon fodder to the physical beating being allowed. Every so often, a ray of light would emerge and Samo would spring forward only to be suppressed by a steely MV backline.
Not much more to report in reality as the rest of the game held to an uninteresting and frustrating storyline. The OTs were no different...and while the heart of the Raptors was willing, the physical ability to do so with a depleted bench was impossible. MV, for their part, were happy to see the game peter out as they knew they had been outplayed. 1-1 draw was unsatisfying. More is required to get the team back on track.
The Raptors, having now squandered their rank and season build up, must now rally themselves for the season's end. Tough games still remain against Lakeville North...on Saturday...then the Woodbury Derby on Tuesday. Raptors currently sit third in the table and that Tuesday game will go a long way in cementing their sectional seed if they win. During these tougher times, focusing on the Raptor values will be crucial to resettling this team that is skilled, talented, and growing up.
East Ridge High School Men's Soccer Booster Club