Tigers, Panthers claw out tie
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 21, 2004 1:57 PM
KENLY -- A tale of two halves.
James Kenan controlled the tempo and possessed the better passing game during first-half play Monday evening against Class 1-A Carolina/Super Six opponent North Johnston.
Meanwhile the Panthers, ranked No. 5 in the latest N.C. Soccer Coaches Association poll, struggled to keep possession in the midfield. They played a step behind the quicker Tigers when contesting for loose balls.
Yellow cards, numerous stoppages in play, a failed penalty kick and a quick restart goal highlighted the second half as North Johnston forged a 3-3 tie after a scoreless overtime. The Panthers (8-2-2) remained unbeaten at home in five outings and climbed to 2-0 against conference opposition.
"I was really happy with the first half," second-year Tigers coach Steve le Roux said. "We have worked on our passing game, which has really improved. The thing I really liked is that we stayed patient and just kept passing.
"It's not the most-spectacular game, but the (goals) are going to come and that's what happened."
The Tigers (6-1-2) opened the scoring in the fifth minute.
Junior midfielders Jose Rojo and Jesus Cheluca worked the ball from the middle and pressured the Panther defense. Sweeper Ryan Fitzgerald miscleared a ball that bounced at the foot of Demetrio Barrera. A junior forward, Barrera crossed the ball to the back post where Hector Bermudez headed it into goal for a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers had very few possessions past midfield, but manufactured two goals on their first two shots.
Late in the 10th minute, Garrett Stancil fired a low strike toward goal that deflected off a James Kenan defender. Forward Ashley Moore picked up the loose ball, dribbled inside the penalty area and hit a perfect strike to the near post. Tiger goalie Alex Barralaga dove for the ball as it glided underneath his outstretched arms into the net.
Barrera put James Kenan ahead 2-1 in the 30th minute. He received a beautiful give-and-go pass from midfielder Eric Cruz and used Fitzgerald as a screen on his shot toward the goal. Panther goalie Josh Cooper lunged for the ball in desperation as it landed inside the near post.
Less than two minutes later, Bermudez struck again by pushing a loose ball into the net after some confusion in the six-yard box.
North Johnston closed the deficit to 3-2 in the 38th minute when Jake Lomonaco and Stancil hooked up after a foul just outside the 18. Lomonaco came around Stancil's right side on the restart and Stancil curled a shot around the Tigers' wall into goal.
The second half certainly differed from the first.
The game's tempo steadily slowed due to the physical play by both teams. The middle official constantly halted play to explain rulings or to issue either yellow or yellow-red cards to players from each team. Three players drew disqualifications, but not ejections which would have resulted in two-game suspensions.
"I think there were too many off-the-ball incidents ... honestly," le Roux said. "Chaos ... that was all of the second half."
The Panthers, now 8-0-2 in their last 10 games, capitalized on the stoppages. They recuperated without having to leave the field and the invariable interruptions minimized the Tigers' ability to string together passes or extend the North Johnston defense by switching the ball to either side of the field.
The score remained 3-2 during the first 20 minutes until a hard tackle in the penalty area resulted in a penalty kick for the Tigers. Junior Mario Mejia converted the free play, but the sideline official ruled an "encroachment by an offensive player."
Rejuvenated by the break, North Johnston increased its intensity and continued to play physical. As the fouls piled up and frustration deepened on the Tigers' faces, the visitors' emotions finally surfaced. Another hard tackle resulted in a free kick that the Panthers quickly took while the Tigers stood around watching.
Stancil hit Raul Farfan for the game-tying goal, which forced the two 10-minute overtime periods.
"Garrett saw Raul and bang," Walston said. "Our midfield play has been the saving grace of our season right now. Raul, Garrett, Dale Price and our outside flankers contributed. It was a complete team effort."
James Kenan (1-0-1 C/SS) played more composed during the overtime, but rushed its shots on goal. The Tigers fired 28 shots toward Cooper, who collected 10 saves in the 100-minute battle.
Neither le Roux nor Walston felt satisfied with the draw. However, Walston did commend his defense for shutting down the Tigers for 60-plus minutes and hopes to build on that when the teams meet again Oct. 13 in Warsaw.
"Any time you tie, you think well maybe you should have won the game or could have won the game. We can't be satisfied with the tie," said Walston, whose team was called for 28 of the game's 41 fouls. "We've got to know that when we go down there, we're going to have to play a little bit better and they may have more things at their advantage when we go down to their place."
James Kenan 3 0 0 0 -- 3
North Johnston 2 1 0 0 -- 3
JK -- Hector Bermudez (Demetrio Barrera assist), 4:48
NJ -- Ashley Moore (Garrett Stancil assist), 9:55
JK -- Barrera (Eric Cruz assist), 29:03
JK -- Bermudez (unassisted), 31:12
NJ -- Stancil (Jake Lomonaco assist), 38:23
NJ -- Raul Farfan (Stancil assist), 75:00
J. Kenan N. Johnston
28 Shots on goal 10
9 Corner kicks 0
4 Offsides 0
13 Fouls 28
Saves -- James Kenan -- Alex Barralaga 4. North Johnston -- Josh Cooper 10.
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