Lakeville North Recap September 28
September 30, 2013East Ridge Boys Soccer
Samuel Ruiz-Plaza and a brace by Connor Stevenson were just enough as the Raptors held on for a course-correcting 3-2 win against a spirited Lakeville North squad on Saturday. Such an outcome did not seem likely if you were to look at some key game metrics such as possession, territory advantage, and passing effectiveness. But the Raptors were at the right end of the most important game metric...the score. Having tied two games that we should have won, and lost a game we should have tied, it was good to get something swinging our way for once.
The compelling encounter was played out against of backdrop of adversity for the Raptors. Having gone 0-1-2 over a difficult scheduling spell, the Raptors were looking to snap the streak without key players missing since the 1-0 loss to Stillwater. Zack Boerjan, Kris Broughton, and Ashwin (Raj) Kolla remained in storage. Also missing was Ben Prescott and Joe Jung from Family related duties. The Raptors had 4 subs. That is shallow.
It all had the makings of another frustrating day. And as the game commenced, there was nothing in the Raptor play which would suggest otherwise. Joseph Kays (KZ), the man-of-the-match from the Mounds View game was absent minded in his first touch almost turning over in the danger zone. While his hustle won the ball back, it served notice that all was not quite well with the Raptors.
The establishment of early game rhythm is the modus operandi for the Raptors. Despite the early mis-touches, they seemed dutifull in their desire to get this going. The ragged play evened out enough for some opportunities to present themselves. Most notably, opportunities came from fouls. Keelan Spencer being the recipient of a hard challenge provided Samo the opportunity to curl one in to Connor who flicked on goal. A superb diving save kept things equal.
Much of the early play was even but it eventually played went to the strong Lakeville midfield. Sporting one of the best players in the state, they began to play a bit more possession. Defensive alignment and positioning allowed the Raptors to keep things at bay but Chris Knight was called to attention on several occasions.
The Raptors countered with some dangerous direct feeds that one several throws deep in Lakeville territory. This led to Danny throws that heaped pressure on the Lakeville box, but did not result in any real opportunity. That was until Baley Barjesteh beautifully found Jarrod streaking down the right footy hash. His touch was true but Lakeville defended well enough to force a throw. While this did not result in anything of note, it did show that Lakeville was prone to attacks from the edge. Save that thought for later.
Lakeville continued to carry play and territorial possession as play began to get more physical. Alec Tostenrud (Toast) exerted his influence to the chagrin of the referree. The resulting Lakeville kick was curled dangerously into the middle...a handball appeal was made but the referee waved the play on. The Raptors immediately attacked the edge with Thomas playing forward to Samo who then put the ball into the left corner for Jarrod to chase down. He did and won a corner. Samo's ball found the near defender and it beaten directly back to him. He then played a one touch cross that suprised the Lakeville defensive line who could only watch as the ball screamed through the middle to a wide open and diving Toast. He just missed by a fraction and the ball went harmlessly through and out for a goal kick.
Despite the chance, the Raptors did not appear to be in a top-gear as their speed and attack to the ball did not exhibit the same spirit as the early season games. This allowed Lakeville a chance to threaten the Raptor goal winning several corners that were consistently cleared by Samo off the backpost. The Raptors play appeared more desperate...which resulted in more direct play counters with KZ providing several opportunities to Connor on the long break. Being unsupported and not fully engaged in the game, Connor was not able to break down 2-3 defenders and the initiative was continually lost.
Lakeville continued to press and was absent minded when they sent a midfield pass into an anticipating Samo who cut it off and broke with purpose forward in racing gear. Taking the outside left lane, Samo blitzed through the Lakeville defensive ranks, touched into the middle and his right foot and then powered home and effort that left the Lakeville goalie and team wondering if they could have Samo's autograph. The Lionel Messi moment was absolutely brilliant and the throngs of Raptor fans in the stands new that it had come against the run of play.
Lakeville's enrapture of the Samo moment was brief and they went immediately on the attack pressing the Raptor defensive right. Their sizeably talented midfielder named Toby...who played for the National Team at one time before a broken foot sidelined him last year...broke into the box where he was met by a stepping KZ. Toby stepped on KZ's foot...took two steps...then tumbled to the ground at the 6 yard box. The referee awarded Toby the oscar by pointing him to the spot. KZ and team were incredulous...but it seemed somewhat par for the course given the year's referee performances. Toby then calmly took his PK stealing back the luster of Samo's goal. 1-1. It was less than a minute lead for the Raptors. This giving up of goals shortly after scoring goals must be addressed. Coach was unhappy with KZ (having thought he made major blunder) and let him...and everyone else...know it. KZ, as captain, did well in understanding and applying the Raptor values of Respect, Positivity, and One Team to his response to the adversity.
KZ continued to lead from the back directly play and pushing Connor forward with long direct passes. Connor continued to get fouled as the physical play mounted. The red midst that sometimes forms for Connor was building. Suddenly, the high positioned Connor was found on a defensive back-check. He won the ball via a hard play, then was fouled aggressively from behind. Brenda and Kip understood the danger of the moment and encouraged him to get quickly forward and away from his antagonist. The red midst was now in full flow coursing through Connor's veins. Fortunately, Connor successfully channelled his energy by taking a lovely Samo feed, composed a freeing two touch step onto his right foot and powered home a lovely ball giving the intiative back to the Raptors right before half...2-1. Again, it was against the run but we will take it. Desperate times.
The 2nd half proved to be the Toby show as the Raptors fought to contain his explosiveness and struggled mightily to get forward. Still, the going was difficult for both sides as all the action was from distance. Toby continued to penetrate down the Raptor right...and despite being covered was able to successfully cross. Knight was quick to see the danger and secured the cross well...but a Lakeville player collided with him jarring the ball loose and into the net. The ref waved it a good play despite the obvious danger of the moment. The Raptor partisans flocked to the streets in outrage.
The Raptors found new courage in this moment and got forward with Connor appears to collide with the keeper. In truth, he falls awkwardly and I do not think Connor touched him in the manner suggested by Lakeville zealots. The ref, for his part, was consistent and did not call anything. The agro of the game was now in full swing as things became increasingly heated on the pitch. Raptors benefited from this and pushed forward with new resolve and determination and went close off a Keelan volley that was going in. The keeper pushed it onto the crossbar...it deflected straight down. The keep then punched it out directly to a charging Jarrod who could only body the shot. The keeper's magnificent save off this was one for the ages as he touched it onto the upright and out. We are all still wondering how that goal did not happen.
The play was back and forth...end to end stuff. With 16 to play, Connor intercepted a midfield pass. Having learned what can be done off the edge, Connor simply accelerated at a speed unmatched by anyone on the field. He was suddenly and deliciously in on goal and finished with a master stroke. The Raptor fans went delirious.
Lakeville and its devotees were not happy. They would be even more unhappy with the results of the next minute. Having leaned almost exclusively on their US National team player for creative thought, the Panthers somehow were denied a goal by a desperate Raptor defense and a sprawling Knight. In truth, many felt the ball had gone over the line...at least from our angle. But the AR held his line and did not call a goal. The ball was played out and forward and the desperate screams and groans from the fans reached a fevered pitch.
Play was stopped and the referees confirmed that there was no goal. That moment broke something in the play for the Panthers. That and the insertion of Calvin Zachman into the midfield and Joey Collines into defense to control play. The Lakeville hard fouls mounted to the horror of the Raptor backers. Pleas to the ref to control play were made to insure that no one would get hurt.
At this time, the aggression of the field translated into the stands. Things were said. Replies made in biting response. This was now a full fledged soccer match filled with real passion. It was wonderfully high tension but to a humorous conclusion when an early aged teenager suggested to a Lakeville antagonist to "go back into your booth and man your camera." It was hard not to laugh.
Toby then tackled Samo hard and was duly given a yellow. He followed this by walking off the field and kicking KZ's big water jug. His most favored cooler of his life. Pure class.
While there would be some trying moments, the Raptors seemed to find themselves again. Their passing sharpened. Their flow quickened. The spirit grew with possession and territorial advantage. Connor scored again but the ref called it back off a push. No matter, the Raptors were not to be denied. They simply did not allow for the Panthers to make use of the time available and successfully killed off the game.
The Raptors probably feel fortunate to have won the game 3-2 when a draw would have been rightful. However, if you add up the strange play and occurances, the game should have favored the Raptors 5-3. So, maybe the result was correct.
Regardless, the Raptors have to be encouraged with the way they finished the game. Hopefully, this will translate into their next match...the Woodbury Derby. This game is big. SEC finish and Sectional seeding is on the line. An outcome is a must.