It was the tale of two ties for the Stratford Boys Varsity Soccer Team the week of February 17 with a 1 -1 heart-breaker vs Cypress Ridge and a 0 – 0 heart-thumper vs Cypress Creek.
The astute reader may ask: How can games with the same outcome elicit such opposing emotional reactions? Well, that is why we have game reports - pathos. There are two factors embodied in the match vs Cypress Ridge that drive one side of the emotional divergence of the two outcomes. The first is that our Spartans beat the Rams 3 – 0 in a home match way back on January 17. The second factor is a tie to Cypress Falls in an away game back on February 4. There the Spartans held the Golden Eagles scoreless for 78 minutes only to see victory slip away. You can see where this is going gentle reader. It was not unreasonable for the Stratford fans to think our chances were pretty good going into the game against Cypress Ridge on February 18. And when the Spartans scored at about 12 minutes in to go up 1 – 0, those expectations looked to be well-founded. On that play, Sam Cohen had a throw-in on the right side that reached the near post. In a bit of pinball action, Jack Manke got the ball in front of the goal. It looks like Francies Galdino was in position to get credit for the score.
By this time, however, you are familiar with the capricious nature of the soccer gods and their contempt for the souls of soccer fans of all stripes, except for Liverpool. With less than 10 minutes left in the game, a dubious Stratford foul was called on the right side of the field. This set up an opponent free-kick at about 45 yards out from the goal. As the kick arched to the right side and the pack of players shifted in the same direction, a single Cypress Ridge player was positioned to get a glancing header on the ball. This was enough to direct it to the lower left-hand corner of the goal for the 1 – 1 tie. To be honest, it was a nice play. Our Spartans did their best for the rest of the game to correct this affront to destiny, but it was not to be. The attentive reader will realize that twice this season an opposing team was able to come from behind to tie the game in the last 10 minutes of play on a set piece from the right side. Coincidence? I think not. Arrghh.
The match against Cypress Creek on February 21 was Senior Night honoring the players wrapping up their high school soccer careers this season. Those accompanied on the field before the game by family and friends were Nicholas Hay, Alex Gutierrez, Francies Galdino, Milan Jokic, Jack Manke, Jesus Sanchez and Nathan Purvis. We wish them well and hope for all the advantages that participating in competitive sports can give them in life.
Expectations for the match were apprehensive as the Cougars had dispatched the Spartans 1 – 0 in their previous encounter in an away match. Cypress Creek demonstrated a quick, high pressure, physical defensive strategy that was abetted by fouls only called if they were the same level as third-degree felony assault. This pressure kept the Spartans off balance for most of the game and the single Cypress Creek score was then enough for the victory. And sure enough, in the game on Friday Stratford did not get its first meaningful penetration into Cypress Creek territory until 13 minutes into the game. Francies Galdino dodged several opponent players to get a shot off that was wide right. But the theme of the half was each side trying to make offensive penetrations, but the defenses were effective at breaking up play and neutralizing any meaningful scoring threats. Stratford had three shot attempts in the half. One more by Francies and another by Hamdan Al-Tuma. Cypress Creek had five shot attempts in the same period. But they were mostly at distance and far off the mark.
The match shifted somewhat in Cypress Creek's favor in the second half. Stratford did not get a meaningful shot attempt until 15 minutes had expired. In the same period, Cypress Creek got off 5 shot attempts that goalie Nick Hay was able to grab. This continued through the end of the half with Cypress Creek making 8 more shot attempts to Stratford’s 3 including corner kicks. However, the play of the game came with 16 minutes left where Cypress Creek had maneuvered the ball to the center of the field inside the penalty area but outside the goal box. There, an opponent player got off a screamer shot to the right side. It seemed certain to be the winner except for the incredible reaction of goalie Nick Hay who knocked the ball wide right with a fully outstretched, arms extended leap that saved the tie. After that, each team had an equal number of attempts. But by that time, it was a relief to get out of there with a tie. Please don’t judge your humble reporter.
That wraps it up for this installment of Spartans Boys Soccer. Play continues next week with an away match at Northbrook on February 25 and Memorial visiting on February 28. See you at the pitch!