After an afternoon consisting of 18 total penalties and a kick up of three yellow cards, the Springfield College men’s soccer team’s third contest of the season came down to a penalty kick in the 91st minute.
1:55 into overtime, Junior Brad Deckel lined up in front of the box and drilled a game winning strike up the middle past Sean Moore to defeat the Westfield State Owls 1-0 on Saturday. The Pride moves to 3-0 on the year while Westfield drops to 2-2.
The Owls entered the game having given up only one goal through three contests played, with both of their victories being shutouts. Although it was a day of offensive struggle for Westfield, its defensive unit was able to limit Springfield’s run and gun offense (averaging 3.25 goals through four games) with physicality.
“[Westfield] is always a rough team, they’ll try getting into our heads by being so physical, but we have to focus on us,” said Deckel. “If we play our game, we know we’re going to come out on top, and that’s exactly what happened today. We played 90 minutes, they were exhausted two minutes into overtime and we were able to put it away.”
Springfield soccer head coach Steffen Siebert did not see any act of malice or ill-intent in the Owls style of play. “We can only control what we can control,” he said. “I thought we were composed – I don’t think the other team was dirty. They play hard. We know that and we want to play hard too, so I thought it was a fair game. Three yellow cards is nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Pride’s defensive scheme of swarming the opposition’s ball carrier with two to three defenders was opposed by Westfield’s tactics, which drew six fouls and two yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. The Owls would go on to hold the Pride to six shots on goal on 24 total shots. Deckel believed the team was ready heading into the contest in matching up against another team that utilizes a running game.
“The plan was to stay in the game as long as we can,” said Siebert. “We knew they had a game 30 hours ago, and we’d get our chances. We just needed to play tight in the back [field], but keep working forward as well.”
Offensively, Springfield saw several opportunities to score on the fast break during the contest, but each of the three chances were ruled as offside violations, including a sequence in the 41st minute (4:00 left in the first half), when Freddy Clark threaded a slant pass to Christian Schneider into the open field.
Held to six shots and four shots on goals, Westfield found its best scoring opportunity in the final moments of the 84th minute (six minutes left in regulation) to take the lead late. Midfielder Kieran Moriarty cut to his left with Deckel in pursuit. Deckel cut off his path, but Moriarty sidled right and unleashed a shot to the right side of Springfield’s goal. As the ball bounded towards the netting, Springfield goalkeeper Stewart Frank laid out and stuffed the ball to the left of the right post for the clutch stop. The save kept Westfield off the board and sent the game into overtime which set up Deckel’s late game heroics.
“I thought our defense did fairly well today,” Deckel said. “There were a lot of times in the first half and in the second half where we had to defend deep. For some teams that may be nerve racking, but we really work on being composed in high pressure situations.”
The Pride’s next contest will be an away game at Stevens tomorrow at 7:30.