CENTRAL FALLS â In the mist and muck at Macomber Stadium on Tuesday night, Shea High desperately wanted to pull off an upset over undefeated Division I nemesis Central Falls.
Instead, head coach Pierre Ridore and his Raiders had to settle for a 2-2 stalemate against a squad that before it took to the pitch had sat in first place by a mere point over second-place Barrington.
âUnder these conditions, we couldn't play our game of one or two touches,â he said after his troops upped their overall mark to 3-2-3 (3-1-3 league). âThe guys just couldn't keep their footing, and â at times, we had to play 'kickball' out there. That's not our style at all.
âWe allowed Central Falls to score two quick goals at the start of the second half, which didn't help us at all,â he added. âThen again, we did show a lot of character with the way we came back.â
Stated C.F. mentor Carl Africo: âWith the field and weather conditions what they were, we'll take it. It was a sloppy field, and it was a really hard night to be a goalie. They were both slipping around and had trouble handling the ball. It was like trying to grab a greased pig out there.
âYou have to give credit to Shea,â he continued. âIt was a bad field to play on for both teams, and the middle of it was non-existent. It was just mud, but both teams played a physical, tough game, and we both played with a lot of heart.â
The good news for the Warriors: It remained unbeaten in D-I at 5-0-2 (6-1-2 overall), and still had a stranglehold on first. The bad: C.F. more or less dominated the opening stanza; in fact, it looked like they had drawn first blood when, just six minutes in, senior Jhony Gonzalez ripped a 30-yard direct kick off the crossbar.
Senior keeper Sebastian DeFaria had leaped to deflect it away, but fell, and the ball's carom landed on his back. It rolled down his body as he dropped to the turf, though he immediately spun and cradled the ball before it could be booted home.
As time progressed, C.F. continued to dominate, as evidenced by eight first-half corner kicks, but it failed to convert each. As bad luck would have it, with only 7:07 left before the break, junior defender Edson Ferrer whacked an approximate 35-yard direct kick/line drive at Warrior senior goalie Juan Patino. He leaped, but the shot sailed over his outstretched hands and just under the crossbar to give Shea a 1-0 advantage.
That's how the session ended â with C.F. mustering three more shots on goal than its foe (5-2).
âAt halftime, I told the kids we had to settle down, and that it was 1-0 because we gave them a set piece; it was a nice shot, but it should've been stopped,â Africo stated. âI just asked them to settle down, and told them we had a ton of goals left in us. Their defense was playing flat-footed, and the goalie (DeFaria) wasn't coming out at all.
âI just said, 'Guys, I want you to attack and shoot.â
They listened, and then some.
A mere 20 seconds into the final stanza, senior Stiven Monteiro received a ball down the left side, wheeled and poked a pass at senior quad-captain Cristian Rodriguez, who in turn drilled a grounder past DeFaria to tie it up.
Amazingly, just 12 seconds later, Monteiro fed his brother, senior Freddy Monteiro, who was stationed on the left side, perhaps 14 yards out. Freddy fought off a defender and tucked it past DeFaria to give the Warriors their first lead at 2-1.
With just over 30 minutes left, Rodriguez roped a 25-yard liner at DeFaria, but junior defender and captain William Baah slid in and booted the ball away, saving a sure tally.
And, with exactly 23:32 remaining, Stiven Monteiro outraced a defender to a downfield pass and â on a breakaway â rifled a right-footer at DeFaria, who crouched and deflected the shot.
Not quite five minutes later, Shea junior forward Ienik Spencer hustled down the left side on a partial breakaway and rocketed a 24-yarder at the net, but it sailed a few feet over the crossbar.
The Raiders didn't fail on its next shot. After accepting a feed from co-captain Issifou Kankarafou on the right side of the goal in the 65th minute, junior midfielder Cecilio Nobre lofted a soft liner from maybe 10 yards off the right post, and it sailed over Patino and inside the netting.
âHe had a great touch on that ball, and it was a tough angle on which to score,â Ridore noted of Nobre. âWe spent a lot of time in practice (on Monday) working on those kinds of touches, about an hour's worth. Now I'm glad we did.â
All told, DeFaria finished with 10 saves, Patino five.
âBoth teams had to come back from adversity,â Africo offered. âWe were down, 1-0, but then battled back to score two goals in only 12 seconds. Shea was down, 2-1, but fought back to get the equalizer. Down the stretch, it was just blow for blow. I thought both teams were extremely tough on the counter-attack.
âI will say this: Shea's one of the toughest teams we've played so far,â he added. âStill, we're going to have to work on some things.â