by Tom Utescher
It took until the final minute of the second half, but Germantown Friends rode a late goal by senior Diego Sanz to a 2-1 victory over the host Falcons of Friends Select School last Thursday afternoon.
Leveling their record in the Friends Schools League at 2-2, the Tigers remained in contention for a berth in the league tournament.
“It would’ve been almost impossible for us to get in if we didn’t win this game,” admitted veteran GFS coach Matt Zipin. “As it is, we still need to beat a team that’s ranked ahead of us right now, and we could use some help from somebody else, as well.”
Sanz comes off the bench for Zipin’s club, but the coach noted “He has a real nose for the goal. He knows how to get into the right place at the right time and he’s not afraid to shoot.”
Even with Thursday’s road win, the Tigers’ overall season record stood at a modest 2-6. Two of those losses were one-goal affairs, and a third (against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) was decided by penalty kicks.
“We’ve been very inconsistent all year, so I would say that our record is disappointing, but not that surprising,” Zipin said. “Aside from Diego, we don’t have a natural goal scorer. We have kids who are tough, who work hard, who are skilled, but that knack for finishing is something that is very hard to teach.”
Sanz and senior starter Gilman Myran have been responsible for much of the team’s offensive output this fall.
In Thursday’s game, neither team scored during the first half nor in the opening stages of the second period, but about 15 minutes in, Friends Select advanced into GFS territory. Germantown’s sophomore goalie, Luke Scott, went to ground to cover a loose ball, but a Falcons player kicked it away from him and shot into the open net. The Tiger players and coaches felt that the ball was clearly in Scott’s grasp and that a foul should’ve been called, but the officials didn’t agree.
Eight minutes later, the visitors tied the match, 1-1, through a well-rehearsed set piece. Henry Bushnell put the ball in play on a corner kick from the left side, sending it to the far post for fellow senior Hank Goldenberg. He headed the ball back into the middle, where Myran had moved into position to knock the ball home.
Surrounded by concrete in Center City, Friends Select plays its home soccer matches in Fairmount Park hard by the East Park Reservoir. The field’s not in great shape, and in last week’s match frustration due to bad bounces and the intensity spawned when two teams scrap for a precious league victory led to some physical play.
With 10 minutes remaining in the second half, there was another collision involving Scott, the GFS keeper.
“Gilman went over to – I think – try and protect Luke, and wound up getting a red card,” Zipin recounted. “We had to finish the game with 10 players.”
The contest appeared headed for overtime, but Sanz, who had fired a hard shot into a goalpost of the Falcons’ cage in the first half, was on the spot for GFS at crunch time.
“We crossed the ball inside and he was there in the right place to put the ball in,” Zipin said.
The Tigers remained the playoff sweepstakes in the FSL, but their coach had mixed feelings about their performance.
“We controlled the ball very well and we had multiple sequences where we had six, seven, eight passes in a row,” he remarked. “What I was not pleased about was that we lost our composure a number of times, and ended up with as many or more cards [the red and three yellows] as we normally get in an entire season. Also, we didn’t put very many shots on-net to really test their goalie.”
Among the challenging matches ahead for GFS are meetings with Westtown and George School, both still undefeated in the FSL. On the same day that the Tigers battled Friends Select, Westtown lost a non-league game, 4-0, to Springside Chestnut Hill.