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Rough week for MAHS boys soccer: trio of losses

Posted 10/3/18

By Mitch Spear

Special to the Press & Journal

The Blue Raiders boys soccer team struggled last week with three tough losses and stand at 4-8 on the season.

They have three games this …

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Rough week for MAHS boys soccer: trio of losses

Posted

By Mitch Spear

Special to the Press & Journal

The Blue Raiders boys soccer team struggled last week with three tough losses and stand at 4-8 on the season.

They have three games this week at home, the first against Camp Hill on Tuesday. They play Milton Hershey on Thursday at Reid Field with varsity starting at 4 p.m. and junior varsity following at 5:30. They finish the week against Boiling Springs at Reid Field at 10 a.m. Saturday for varsity and 11:30 for JV.

East Pennsboro 1, Middletown 0

The Raiders opened up the week Sept. 24 against East Pennsboro with confidence after just beating them last week on the road. The outcome, however, fell in favor of the Panthers this time.

The game began with the teams trading a pair of early chances as both teams settled into the flow of the game. The opposing defenses prevented shooting lanes and much of the play was in the middle third of the field.

About 10 minutes into the game, the Raiders elevated their energy level and began challenging the 50-50 balls and asserting some dominance and possession. However, an unnecessary Raider foul about 30 yards out resulted in a Panthers’ direct kick.

The strike was well placed and required the defense of Brady Keyser holding the line to clear the ball with his header, which fell center of frame about 12 yards deep. Sami Almouzzani was able to get his own rebound and head the ball back in for the Panthers’ lead.

The resulting goal changed the dynamics of the game and East Pennsboro dropped back defensively, fouled often, and looked to play for the counter-attack. The extra defenders prevented clean looks for the Raiders, and the frequent fouls of the Panthers broke up the continuity of the game.

However, the Panthers’ quick counter-attack was kept at bay as the Raiders played the offsides trap to near perfection. The trap resulted in five Panther offsides in the remainder of the half.

The second-half strategy for the Panthers did not waver as they continued to foul frequently, disrupting the flow of the game, and played prevent defense. Frequently, the Panthers had as many as nine field players in the defensive third of the field while absorbing the Raider attack.

The Panthers got the next good scoring chance when they won a header off Caleb Springer’s punt and sent the ball beyond the defense of the Raiders. The ball fell to the foot of the Panthers’ speedy forward, Conner Durborow. His shot went wide as Springer came off his line to challenge.

The Raiders nearly got an equalizer when Anthony LaVia played a perfectly weighted ball between a defensive seam that sprung Griffin Meyer one-on-one with the Panthers’ keeper, Grant Zemanek.  Zemanek did well to time his run with the heavy touch of Meyer to meet the shot simultaneously with his sliding grab.

A series of yellow cards and fouls further broke up the play of the Raiders until late in the game when a flurry of chances could not be finished.

Two more great opportunities came for the Raiders. The first was when LaVia and Meyer hooked up again and the resulting shot from Meyer beat the Panther keeper and required a header of Zachary Muhlhauser holding the line to clear the ball. The last came with three minutes left in game when a corner kick could not be cleared by the Panthers and hit a series of bodies in the box. However, all the congestion resulted in several blocked shots before being cleared out and preserving the slimmest of margin victory for the Panthers, 1-0.

West Perry 5, Middletown 0

With the Tuesday’s home game rained out, the Raiders returned to the pitch on Thursday against the West Perry Mustangs.

The 5-0 loss did not tell the story of the game. Instead, the game could be better summarized by which team did better capitalizing on their chances.

The Raiders held the advantage in shots, corners, direct kicks and possession. In fact, the Mustangs had meaningful possession in the attacking third of the field only five times in the first half. The Mustangs’ scoring efficiency resulted in three goals in the five attempts, and was all that was needed to finish the half.

The Raiders’ dominance of passing and possession provided some hope of getting back into the game in the second half. The Raiders changed their formation to a three-defensive back system in hopes of pressing more and creating more chances. But the Raiders abandoned the passing game, passed up shooting opportunities outside the box, and attempted to break down the Mustangs’ defense with the dribble.

The Mustangs were able to tally two more goals in the second half. The first goal was off a direct kick that hit crossbar down about 25 yards out. The second strike came off a quick counter that Ben Knisely did well to pursue and close down on the Mustang attacker, Zachary Gruber. However, a nice cutback put the ball on his right foot and was able to place his shot far post to hit side netting around the reach of Springer.

Pequea Valley 8, Middletown 3

The Raiders finished the week against the very talented non-league opponent, the Pequea Valley Braves (9-1-2 on the season).

The record did not seem to intimidate the Raiders as they played perhaps their best half of soccer and stunned the Braves with a 3-2 halftime lead.

The Raiders struck first in the fourth minute of the game when LaVia took a shot far post from the corner of the box that glanced off the head of the Braves defender, sailed over the reach of their keeper, and found the back of the net.

The Raiders bagged their second of the contest when LaVia was fouled hard near the halfway line. Joe Cuneo provided great service with the direct kick that found Griffin Meyer, who was able to steer the ball with his header over the reach of the Braves’ keeper standing a few yards off his line to make it 2-0.

The Braves, never trailing by more than a goal all season, responded by netting one of their own. A speedy forward was able to get in beyond the defense of the Raiders and bury the one on one opportunity against Springer.

Minutes later, the Raiders doubled their lead, this time from the persistence of Gary Mensah. Mensah received the cross as he was making a run far post. His first shot was initially saved by the Braves’ keeper, but Mensah remained poised and struck the rebound into the back of the goal for the Raider 3-1 lead.

The Braves however did pull back within one goal just before half. The goal came off a shot from distance that hit the crossbar square and caromed back into the field of play where the Brave striker followed up the shot and buried it for the 3-2 halftime score.

The second half was all Braves as they began to better time their speedy runs to break down the Raiders’ offsides trap. This adjustment resulted in six goals for the Braves, all on breakaway attempts that beat Springer in goal, for the 8-3 final.