Volume 20, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Nov. 30 - Dec. 6, 2007

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Downtown’s Major 10 division closes with tight defense

The Downtown Soccer League Major 10’s final weekend was a wild roller coaster ride, which shook up the final standings before Thanksgiving. Previously undefeated Sevilla fell to surging Mallorca 2-1 and fellow division leader Valencia bowed to the resurgent Real Madrid 3-1 to create a virtual three-way tie for the division crown with mere percentage points separating the leaders. Valencia and Sevilla had shared the Major 10 lead for most of the season after perennial powerhouse Real Madrid, playing without many of its key stars, had dropped its first three games. That they could come back from this deficit to nearly nip the others is clear testimony to their overwhelming talent and competitive spirit.

Real Madrid vs. Valencia
In a hard-fought game with the division virtually at stake, Real Madrid took it to the division leaders hard and often. First team all-star and midfield-general Mathew Weldon pushed the ball relentlessly and was again instrumental in the win with one assist. First team all-star striker Jake Jiler and newly named all-star Austin Sansone were the big story here, tallying one and two goals respectively. Sansone has been a phenom in the late going, coming out of relative obscurity on this juggernaut to challenge perennial all-stars Jiler and Weldon for the team scoring title. Valencia first team all-star Zach Trachtenberg put in the lone goal for Valencia to keep them close. Valencia first team all-star strikers Matthieu Bialosky and Taro Nakagawa fought hard, but it was not to be their day. First team all-star goalie Noah Kahan made many fine saves and was sorely disappointed in the loss. Real Madrid first team all-star defender Roxana Zerres showed why she has been invaluable to this team since her return from the continent stifling the potent Valencia attack. Valencia all-stars Roberta Samuel and Kate Nathan were solid, while Mei Meadow, Theo Klein and Bayley Arens shone for the challengers. Real Madrid’s Max Ripps turned in what many consider his best game, saving numerous potential goals to seal the 3-1 win and this amazing comeback.

Mallorca vs. Sevilla
In one of the season’s biggest upsets, first team all-star center Dario Flores showed how much his addition has meant to Mallorca this year with two first-half goals as midfield all-stars Uriah Frederick and Theo Simko racked up the assists, giving Dario numerous chances. Hard-nosed Sevilla was not about to go down easily and battled back in the second half with relentless pressure as all-star Alex Hall scored to keep it close. Sevilla’s first team all-star striker Kai Glick and all-star middie Blake Lackman fought hard but could not find paydirt as Mallorca’s all-star defender Greta Keating and all-star goalie Mateo Flores had another fine game for the green. Sevilla first team all-star striker Najee Hall looked to have tied it up in the late going with a long-range blast, but it struck the crossbar and could not find net.

Mallorca defender Alexander Cretella received coach’s special commendation for his unceasing hustle and dedication, while defender Otis Hatfield was named most improved. Mallorca won, 2 – 1.

Athletico vs. Villareal
Athletico ended the worst drought in division history bringing tears to the eyes of coaches and parents alike, but joy to their hearts as they fought arch-rival Villareal to a 0-0 tie for their first non-loss of the season. “It was as though we had won the division,” said coach Christina Deguardi. “I am so proud of my kids. They never gave up. This is the kind of season that builds character, but I’m not eager to repeat it.”

All-stars Dylan Pryor, Michael Banks and striker Sammy Davis were outstanding for Athletico, working tirelessly on both sides of the ball and both narrowly missing shots, which might have been game winners. Pryor’s shot looked like it was headed for glory, but goalie Nathan Goldberg, returning late this season, was able to barely deflect it over the crossbar.

First team all-star middie Marcus Chan and all-star sister Meryl were again outstanding for the yellow and black with numerous rushes and steals, as was all-star middie Mikayla Toffler. Late in the second half Marcus fed first team all-star striker Alec Tullock, who broke through the stingy Athletico defense for what looked to be the game winner as it flew toward the near post, but unsung goalie William Carr cradled it to preserve the tie.

Barcelona vs. Espanyol
In a game whose intensity and excitement was not reflected in the score, Barcelona and Espanyol battled to a nil-nil tie. Action was end to end from the opening whistle as both teams came out determined to take home a win. Espanyol pressed hard early as first team all-star midfielder Chun Schlesinger-Fried duked it out with fellow all-star wing Chloe Lombardi along the near side. Espanyol’s all-star striker tandem of Alex Hirsch and Elliott Loving gave goalie James Demsak several scares, but could not find net and Jimmie D sent them scurrying the other way with a number of excellent outlet passes. As Barcelona raced up-field, first team all-star middie Aidan Rogers was on his game with numerous good feeds to all-star center Hunter Wolf, who had several good chances, which were scooped up by goalie William Merrill. With the onset of the second half, Barcelona put on a surge and peppered Merrill. Star middie Bryan Gomez broke free twice and zeroed in, but to no avail. First team all-star middie Eve Grassfield was outstanding yet again for the red and blue with numerous steals. Grassfield played give and go with Lombardi along the left side all day long, until Chloe finally broke free with what looked to be the game winner, but Merrill raced out to cut down the angle and grab her shot.

As time grew short, Espanyol stepped up the pressure, pinning Barcelona in their own end as all-stars Hirsch and Loving each had chances, but all-star defensive captain Michael Shorris moved to goalie and shut them down, leaping to cradle a blast from Hirsch that had game-winner written all over it. Now it was Barcelona’s turn, finding a sprinting Rogers with an outlet pass to midfield Shorris quickly turned the tables. Rogers and Gomez executed a perfect give and go finding winger Nigel Epps alone in front of the net, but his shot went just wide. With only moments left, all-star defender Anya Dombrowski found Theo Fandrich in the midfield. As the crowd held its breath, Fandrich made a perfect pass to a streaking Loving who bore in on goal. At the final moment Barcelona defender Elaine Rocket-Girl Farah came from nowhere to strip Elliot from behind and preserve the tie. What a game!

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