Mustangs improve to 7-2-2 in league play, with eye on sectionals
By Kevin Prise Medina Journal-Register
Akron boys soccer coach Chuck Pfohl was not in a good mood after he saw his Tigers fall to Medina at Veterans Park on Tuesday afternoon. When approached on the sideline after the game, Pfohl said he had no interest in talking, and that his only comment would be that his team played a bad game.
Before departing the field, Pfohl quickly added his opinion that since Akron has already clinched the Niagara-Orleans League, "the game meant nothing."
But considering the victory gives Medina a signature win on its resume — along with a huge boost in confidence heading into postseason play — the Mustangs all agree that the victory did, in fact, mean something.
"Best feeling I've had so far," Medina junior Steven Anderson said.
"Very big for our confidence," senior Mustang leader Barry Rogenmoser added.
The Mustangs played hard and played tough, coming away with a narrow 1-0 victory in the Niagara-Orleans League boys soccer contest — and foiling Akron's bid at an undefeated season in league play.
Making the win sweeter? Akron is currently the No. 1 ranked small school in Section VI.
"From start to finish, we had our intensity, and we played smart," Medina coach Steve Luksch said. "I don't think our guys were intimidated at all — we came out and we played our game, regardless of what they were throwing at us. And we executed perfectly."
In order to beat a team that was previously a perfect 10-for-10 in league play, the Mustangs knew they needed to come into Tuesday's game clicking on all cylinders, after suffering a multi-goal loss on the Tigers' home field a few weeks back.
In a battle of two largely defensive-minded teams, Akron and Medina played to a 0-0 first-half tie. Then a few minutes into the second half, the spunky Anderson seized an opportunity after a long throw-in from James Ianni, charging toward the net and taking possession after the Akron goalkeeper mishandled the ball.
Anderson's first scoring attempt was foiled by the goalkeeper, but he got his own rebound and managed to find the back of the net.
"At that point, you've got to stay aggressive and do everything you can to put the ball in," Anderson said. "You've got to finish."
Indeed he did, and the Mustang defense held strong from that point forward to preserve the victory. Adam Hoot earned the shutout in net, making several saves down the stretch as the Tigers offense maintained possession for much of the final 10 minutes.
Rogenmoser said the team prepared a new strategy for this game, anticipating Akron's practice of stalling time by passing the ball around in its own end.
To adjust, the Mustangs at times employed a three-forward formation instead of a traditional two-forward set, Rogenmoser said. It kept Akron from controlling the tempo, and it made for a much more back-and-forth contest.
"Akron likes to pass it around in the back, so we started trying a new formation on them," Rogenmoser said. "They like to attack with their fullbacks, so we used three forwards to try and put pressure on their defenders coming up."
When Medina cleared the ball downfield with about 15 seconds remaining, the final result apparent, fans along the sidelines began to throw up their arms in joy. Cars honked their horns from down the street, and team supporters were heard saying things like, "No matter what else they do, at least they won this game," "This is so freaking exciting," and simply, "Oh my God."
Even a few dogs started barking from the adjacent parking lot, clearly aware that something special was in the making.
So no matter what the Akron coach may have thought, it was quite the afternoon at Veterans Park, as Medina defeated Akron for the first time in three years. The Mustangs improve to 7-2-2 in league play with one game remaining, while Akron falls to 10-0-1. The Tigers may have clinched the league title, but the season series was split at a game apiece.
And for the Mustangs, the confidence gained will prove invaluable come playoff time — which is rapidly approaching.
"It shows that we can play with just about anyone in the state," Luksch said. "So for us, it means something. Maybe toward the standings it doesn't, but for a team that we may see later on, knowing we can play with them, it means a lot."
Roy-Hart 1, Wilson 0
WILSON — Josh Baptiste scored in the 75th minute on a cross pass from Lyle Wagner, and the Rams avoided the upset with a narrow victory at Wilson in a Niagara-Orleans League game on Tuesday evening.
Maine Walker earned the shutout in goal for Roy-Hart, making six saves.
Roy-Hart improves to 5-5-1 in league play, while Wilson falls to 2-8-1. The Rams will wrap up the regular season at Medina on Thursday, with start time slated for 6:30 p.m. Earlier in the season, the Rams and Mustangs played to a 3-3 tie.