The skies opened midway through yesterday's Lions Classic championship boys soccer game between host Liberty and No. 12 Glenelg and turned an already sloppy field into a virtual quagmire. By the time sunshine returned midway through the second half, players were constantly slipping and sliding.
That's the main reason Glenelg coach Peter Klisas and Liberty coach Ed DeVincent opted to skip overtime when regulation ended at 2-2. Klisas and DeVincent discussed it with officials and went straight to penalty kicks. Liberty then won that round easily and came away with a big early-season victory and the tournament championship.
"We just didn't want to play any more in the mud," Klisas said, fearing possible injuries.
DeVincent agreed and said both coaches were concerned about the field and the fact it was the day's second game for each team. Skipping overtime and heading right to penalty kicks seemed a logical compromise.
"It was a good game, and there were two quality teams," DeVincent said. "It's harder on your legs; it's the second game of the day plus it's sloppy out there."
The Lions scored a 4-1 win in penalty kicks, making all of their shots against Glenelg goalie Kyle Goldman. Justin Ahmanson, Taylor Van Brackle and James Napp all beat Goldman with shots to the left before Sean Locklear sealed the victory with a shot inside the right post.
Liberty goalie Brandon Chopper (four saves) made one save, and Glenelg banged one shot off the post. Mickey Hill scored in the third round, but Liberty already had a 3-1 lead and Locklear ended it in the fourth round.
"I'm usually not good on penalty kicks," Locklear said. "But I saw the keeper going to the left on the penalty kicks, so I decided to go to the right."
Locklear scored the team's first goal and now has three goals and one assist for Liberty (2-1) this season. Glenelg (3-1) had taken a 1-0 lead when David Olorunfemi headed a Joey Osborne throw-in past Chopper just 3:52 into the game.
Locklear started the Liberty comeback. He tied the game with 28:36 left by lining a low 15-yard shot inside the left post after making a quick cut into the middle - the first goal the Gladiators allowed this season.
The Lions took a 2-1 lead just 59 seconds later when Michael McCormick chipped in a high 15-yard shot that Goldman (nine saves) appeared to misjudge. The goalie took a step or two off his line, and McCormick calmly one-timed a shot that sailed right over his head.
Hill tied it on a header with 9:02 left in the first half, but Chopper helped keep the game tied at halftime. He made a diving save on a corner kick and a spectacular save with his foot on a shot from in close.
"They had a lot of good opportunities, especially in the first half," Chopper said. "We came out and played hard. It was good to come out there against a quality team and get a win."
Both coaches began substituting en masse as the game went on, giving other players a look and trying to stay away from injuries. Liberty controlled play in the second half but neither team found any great scoring chances.
Locklear had the best scoring opportunity, trying to thread a through ball to Ahmanson. However, the pass was about one step too long and Ahmanson couldn't reach it in time.
Glenelg was coming off a tough game in the first round. The Gladiators needed an Olorunfemi goal for a 1-0 victory over Northeast. Goldman and Jeff Wellen combined for the team's third shutout.
The Lions found a much easier time in their first-round game, scoring a 7-0 rout over an overmatched City team. Graham Rigby scored twice and Ahmanson added a goal and an assist.
Northeast (1-2) rebounded in the consolation game with an 8-1 victory over City (0-2). Brian Woolford played a dual role, making three saves in goal and then scoring twice as nine Eagles got a goal or an assist.