by Tom Utescher
Germantown Friends was trying to secure a berth in the league playoffs in last Tuesday’s home game, but instead the Tigers’ boys’ soccer team appeared headed for a 2-0 loss. In a near-miraculous finish to the second half, GFS erased visiting Friends Central’s lead by depositing two goals in the final five minutes.
The score in this Friends Schools League clash had remained 0-0 well into the second period, but now the contest was headed to overtime at 2-all. There, the Tigers’ luck would run out, as FC freshman Joey Lawall fired the game winner for the Phoenix with 4:33 remaining in the second 10-minute OT session.
Coming into the contest, Germantown held a 4-2 record in league play and Friends Central was 1-3-1, but the rivalry between the schools in most sports is such that you can disregard earlier outcomes when the Phoenix and Tigers tangle. A GFS win, and the resulting 5-2 mark in the FSL, would’ve punched the team’s ticket into the four-team league tournament.
“We were in control of our destiny, and now it’s out of our hands,” Tigers head coach Sam McIlvain commented afterward. “We could still get in, but it’s going to depend on what some other teams do.”
GFS (6-8 overall) had knocked off FSL rivals Abington Friends, Academy of the New Church, Moorestown Friends, and Westtown, and had lost to league leader Shipley and to George School.
Early in last Tuesday’s tilt, GFS was not able to convert on scoring opportunities on a corner kick and a direct kick, and later when the ball was crossed inside to senior Evan Zaret, he shot it a little wide to the right.
Friends Central had its chances too. On a well-aimed corner kick by the visitors, GFS junior Felipe Sanz headed the ball out of danger. Not long after that, a promising shot fired by Steven Nguyen of the Phoenix was foiled with a dramatic diving deflection by the Tigers’ freshman goalie, Pietro Berghella.
FC controlled a good deal of the play in the middle of the period, but GFS came on toward the end of the half. The Tigers earned three corner kicks in as many minutes, but didn’t get off a shot. Senior Anand Butler served the ball into the box a little later, and a header by Sanz went wide. The half would end at 0-0.
“We had 10 or 12 pretty good chances today, but if you can’t score you’re not going to win,” McIlvain observed.
Early in the second half, another leaping save by the Tigers’ Berghella denied the visitors a goal, and at the other end, a GFS header rose over the crossbar of the Phoenix’s cage.
The ebb and flow continued into the middle of the period, then Friends Central netted the game’s first goal, chipping the ball into the box where sophomore Chris Annas arrived to tap it in with about 18 minutes remaining in the second half. GFS looked to tie the contest when senior Satya Butler won a race to the ball against advancing FC keeper Nolan McGrann, but Butler’s shot strayed outside the left post. In a similar footrace at the other end of the pitch, Friends Central sophomore Asa Bell outran Germantown’s Berghella. Bell got the ball past the keeper and settled it for an easy goal.
Before long, the situation began to look grim for the home team as the clock slipped under five minutes with the Phoenix still up 2-0. The Tigers finally broke up McGrann’s shutout on a play where the Butler brothers teamed up, with Anand sending the ball near the mouth of the goal and Satya banging it home from near the right post.
The Tigers kept up the attack, and when they earned a corner kick from the right with under 90 seconds to go, they even brought the lanky Berghella up into the box for a possible header. He and an FC defender got a little piece of the airborne ball, but it continued on toward the left side of the cage. After a few bounces, Zaret closed in to score the equalizer.
Each ballclub had a few chances for the winner during the early stages of the overtime, which consisted of two 10-minute stints, played in full. The score was still tied when the teams switched ends at the 10-minute mark. In the middle of the second segment, the ball floated from the left side of the GFS penalty area over toward the right. It was not high off the ground, and FC’s Lawall was falling to his knees as he headed the ball into the net. A final GFS corner came to naught, and the Phoenix left with a “W.”
UPDATE – The GFS Tigers learned that they will be playing in the league tournament, but they must await the outcome of the last FSL regular-season games to discover their seeding.