Early-season growing pains can be expected for a young McDonogh boys soccer team that’s learning on the go after the missing last season because of coronavirus restrictions.
In Tuesday’s home game against Archbishop Curley, lapses showed during significant stretches, but the No. 2 Eagles still managed to find a way to pull out a 3-2 double-overtime win against the No. 4 Friars in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play.
Senior Aidan Ellis, in his first career start, scored his second goal to seal the win with 5:31 left in the second 10-minute overtime. Many of senior goalkeeper Will Anderson’s eight saves were spectacular, including turning away a first-half penalty kick with the Eagles protecting a 1-0 lead.
McDonogh improves to 2-1, while Curley is now 1-1.
McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta, who guided the Eagles to three straight league titles before the pandemic, is beginning to understand a team that only has two starters back from the 2019 team is going to need his patience.
“It’s not one of my strongest suits, unfortunately, but I’ve got to do a better job of being patient realizing we’re three games in and they got to grow. Winning games like this is the quickest way to grow, to get through these sort of minutes and we did that today as a team,” he said. “We’ve got to get a lot better, but credit to Curley.”
Ellis opened the scoring in the eighth minute and before closing out the win in double overtime — there were plenty of opportunities for either team to put the game away. With 10 minutes left in the first half, Curley center defender Ricky Schissler alertly cleared a clean strike from Jacob Murrell off the goal line to keep it a one-goal game. When the Friars were awarded a penalty kick with five minutes left until the halftime break, Schissler hit a low firm shot to the left corner that Anderson kept out with a diving save.
And just when the Eagles finally appeared to take hold of the game with their second goal — Usman Adegbenro headed home a cross from Seth Malek with 10:53 left in regulation — the Friars were finally able to finish off some of the scoring chances they had been continually creating.
Brady Geho, dangerous throughout the game, made a strong run from the ball at midfield before finishing in close to make it 2-1 less than a minute later. Continuing to press, the Friars forced overtime with 1:04 to play when Aidan Diem scored from 12 yards out after a pass by Nick Henderson squirted across the penalty area.
Diem would have a chance at the game-winner in the first overtime session as he got free in front but sent his take just wide before Ellis became the home team’s hero when he pounced on a ball that wasn’t cleared.
“It was crazy. I saw the goalie [Michael Caulkins] off the line, so I just hit it with what I had. It felt great, definitely,” said Ellis.
“I think what separates the good teams from the great teams is the ones who can come out, not play well and still get the result. Everyone battled hard, you could see everyone was cramping up, but we gave our all.”
Quaranta praised the play of Anderson, who is starting in his first season in goal. In addition to turning away the penalty, he stayed composed and had his angles covered to hold off steady stretches of pressure from the Friars.
“Fantastic,” said Quaranta. “We’re up 1-0 and we’re hanging on and he makes three or four saves to keep us in the game. If we go down 2-1 there, who knows what happens; saves a penalty — just phenomenal from him.”
As for the Friars, Stitz saw good things on Tuesday he previously hadn’t in the team’s preseason and 1-0 season-opening win against Concordia Prep last week.
“The biggest positive out of this is, up until this point we haven’t been good,” he said. “Throughout the preseason, a couple scrimmage games, and I didn’t think we were great against our opening league game against Concordia. We played really well today and, more importantly, really well against one of the top teams in the region, country. So it’s a confidence builder and now we got to look for that consistency.”
“Previously, we hadn’t created a whole lot of chances and today we created a ton and, at the end of the day, you finish them and maybe the game doesn’t go into overtime. But it was a game that either team could have won and they made the big play at the end.”
McDonogh faces Concordia Prep on the road Friday at 4 p.m. while Curley has a Sept. 8 road game at John Carroll.
Goals: M — Ellis 2, Adegbenro; AC — Geho, Diem.
Assists: M — Malek 2; AC — Henderson.
Saves: M — Anderson 8; AC — Yakim 2, Caulkins 5.
Half: M, 1-0