Downtowners close the season at full speed
Valencia v. Real Madrid
Playing on a windswept field with the consistency of chocolate pudding mixed with wet kitty litter, undefeated Valencia (8-0-1) faced their final challenge of the season from Real Madrid (4-4-1). The first half saw tight defensive play on both ends as the sloppy field and a heavy ball slowed breakaways. Still, each team mounted charges and the Real Madrid offense of Felix Parker and Ryan Porcaro received some nice passes from mid-fielders Clyde Huibregtse and Sam Liberman but they couldn’t connect. A counterattack breakaway by Valencia’s Jack McGreevey tallied the games first score despite a sliding tackle by R.M. goalie Simon Curtis-Ginsberg that disrupted, but didn’t stop McGreevey’s charge. The first half ended 1-0 Valencia.
Both teams started the second half with their faces and white jerseys speckled with mud. R.M. resolved to play un-tucked to help distinguish friend from foe. The Valencia offense came out fast and struck first as Niall Gallagher converted to extend the lead to 2-0 as R.M. goalie Huibregtse was unable to gather up the rebound on a hard shot from 12 yards.
Real Madrid fought back several times but was turned away by Valenica’s stiffening defense and the slick field conditions. Finally, Felix Parker was able to connect for the first R.M. goal. R.M. continued to press the ball into Valencia’s defensive half and kept it pinned down. Dilworth then broke through with a shot to the right corner for the equalizer.
Valencia tried to rally quickly but the Madrid backs Grace Bristol and Sophie Stoch stopped the advance and sent the ball back down the field for more R.M. offensive pressure. Minutes later, McGreevey engineered another breakaway goal for Valencia by converting a pass from Liam Furst from deep in the corner with just 5 minutes remaining that appeared to clinch the result.
Still, R.M. did not give up and with a fiery half time pep talk on the topic by Co-Coach Marilyn Porcaro resonating in their minds, strikers Parker and Dilworth pressed forward with Porcaro, Fischer Bodwell, Curtis-Ginsberg, Jasper Stoch in support at midfield and Deejai Riangkrul keeping watch at sweeper. With just two minutes to play, a crossing pass from Porcaro found Dilworth who evaded two defenders for a sweet left footed shot to equalize the game. The final result, a hard fought and satisfying 3-3 tie to end the season.
Athletico vs. Sevilla
Saturday evening’s rain left behind piles of muck on the Battery Park City fields, which were somewhat improved by the hard work (and carefully-placed kitty litter) of the B.P.C. park staff. Most of the players had multiple layers of clothing, to keep away the winds buffeting the 8:20 a.m. game. Fans who rose early and stood bundled up on the sidelines were rewarded with a well-fought match between two skillful teams. Athletico’s Graham Nelson took possession first and stayed with the ball throughout the game. But his first run was forced out of bounds, and Sevilla’s James Carney sent a nice corner kick to teammate Tyler Rohan who passed to right winger Nicky Leong. Athletico cleared it to Anna Van Patten, who brought the ball down towards the goal. Defenseman Matt Levine, in his first of many great defensive moves of the game, stepped forward and sent the ball the other way.
Athletico deposited the ball with goalie Wyatt Accardi, but his goal kick was intercepted by Leong. Accardi blocked his shot, and Daphne Tsapalas (later awarded the Prancing Power medal) stepped up as well. She took the rebound and relayed it to Jacob Roter (fresh from another performance in “The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center). Roter passed the ball behind his back to Carney, who passed it to Rohan, who passed it to Leong, but Athletico’s Alex Monticciolo cleared the ball to teammate Julia Udell.
Gavin Zinzell and Balthazar Merrin arrived late and provided the usual spark for their team, and Accardi was moved to the role of goalkeeper. Merrin’s strong boot was picked up by Van Patten, but her shot was saved by Sevilla’s Elias Griffin in goal. Athletico regained possession, but Levine had another fine clear. Leong took the ball and was only able to get it past Athletico’s Meret Baumann when she slipped in a giant mud puddle. But teammate Lev Gordon was there to back her up with a nice ball, which he slid to Merrin. Merrin also lost his footing, and his tumbling shot on goal was saved by Griffin. Griffin’s punt to Leong was passed to Carney, whose shot was blocked with Nelson’s upper body. Roter got the rebound and careened the ball past Accardi for the first Sevilla goal since October 26.
From midfield, Merrin headed back towards the Athletico goal, but his shot was blocked by a diving play by Sevilla’s Player of Perpetual Motion, Luke Marable, and then saved by Griffin. Merrin kept at it, intercepting Griffin’s goal kick, but his ball was swept by Tyler Adams and cleared by Rohan.
In their next attempt, Athletico got Griffin to come out of the goal, but the ball was crossed and hovered at the mouth of the goal. Sevilla’s Levine got to it first, though, and cleared it to defensive stalwart Lumia Nocito and Max Kong. Kong fed it to teammate Anthony Miguez, who delivered a typical great boot downfield. Carney was able to break away with the ball, but Accardi came out of the goal and snagged it. His punt was trapped by Van Patten, who dribbled down the side and passed to Will Pangburn, whose shot on goal was saved by Griffin. Carney and Leong tried a combination again, which was cleared by Athletico’s Kyra Russo. Sevilla stayed on it, though; resulting in Marable’s shot on goal, which was saved by Accardi. The delightful Mia Potter stepped in and dribbled through the crowd and met Leong head-on. Teammate Nelson was there to receive the ball, passing to Gordon, who sent it to Merrin, who parlayed it into another shot on goal. Griffin was on it again, however, and Athletico remained scoreless in the first half.
Zinzell sent the ball to Rohan, who, from 40 yards out, dropped it nicely into the penalty box and it was deflected wide by Conrad Wurzburg, now in goal for Athletico. Nelson recovered the ball and headed back towards Leong, now in goal for Sevilla. He passed to Merrin, who crossed to Zinzell, but Leong smothered the shot. Nelson followed up shortly with a shot on goal from a throw-in by Potter, but his attempt was squashed by Leong, causing Athletico coach Bob Potter to shout out in teasing exasperation, “Who’s that keeper? Who’s that keeper?”
Athletico heard the war cry, and Zinzell determinedly took the ball on a breakaway, but his shot was blocked and his rebound was saved by Leong, who punted it to midfield. . Griffin’s spinning pass and great boot soared through the air again towards the Sevilla goal, but Wurzburg leapt and batted it out of bounds with both hands for a corner kick. And in the “Coach is Validated” move of the year, Carney’s corner kick, perfected in endless drills at practice, was delivered into the six yard box, and amongst the confusion, ended up in the back of the net. Sevilla was now ahead by 2 for the first time since September 14th!
With renewed confidence, the Sevilla players kept up the pressure. A fantastic combination between Griffin and Adams resulted in a left-footed blast by Adams from about 12 yards out. The drive beat Goalie Wurzburg, but unfortunately for Sevilla, it met the left post squarely and produced the dreaded “ping” that will echo though Adams’ mind all winter long. Final score Sevilla 2, Athletico 0 with the story being the Sevilla defense and the fact that they produced their third “clean sheet.”
Both teams headed inside for bagels, cinnamon buns, medals and thank-you gifts. Athletico finished the season on an even note, with 4 wins, 4 losses and 2 ties. Sevilla celebrated a fun soccer season, noting that three seemed to be the magic number this year: they won three games, tied three games, had three shutouts and lost three of the games by only one goal. And of course, they had three hard-working and patient coaches in John Griffin, Chris Rohan and Bill Tsapalas. John mentioned that the dynasty (which started with Junior 6 team Arsenal) will continue to grow stronger, hopefully with Gabe Colon back on the roster.