Pittsfield boys soccer team falls on penalty kicks to Springfield Central in Western Massachusetts Division I tournament
PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield boys soccer team didn't shy away from trying to claw back into Friday's Western Massachusetts Division I tournament game against Springfield Central at Kirvin Park.
But Central goalie Orlando Martinez didn't shy away, either.
Martinez erected a proverbial brick wall in front of his goal in the second half, extra time and in penalty kicks against the No. 8 Generals, coming up with key save after key save as his No. 9 Golden Eagles left the Berkshires with a penalty-kick win. The score was tied 1-1 after regulation and extra time, and the Golden Eagles converted four of their penalties to just two for PHS to advance.
"The effort was there 100 percent, it's just that final touch, and that goalie was awesome," Pittsfield coach Andrew Antil said. "Full credit to him. He was deceptively fast. He was outstanding, and he cut down angles really well."
While Martinez had a great game throughout, the key moments came in the second period of extra time, then in the penalty kicks.
After Pittsfield battled back from a goal down at halftime to even things up through Carter Matthews in the 51st minute, the Generals kept chipping away at Central without gaining any ground.
By the time the second period of overtime arrived, it looked like the Generals were ready to score a winner. But with just under four minutes to go in the second overtime, Seyvon Kouao sent Cristian Mendez through on goal and Mendez got off a shot, but Martinez was able to bat the ball away from his goal. Moments later, Mendez got another clean shot on net inside the 18-yard box, but again Martinez was able to come up with the point-blank save.
"As you can see, Orlando, our keeper, kept us in it the entire game," Central coach Scott Arel confessed. "Without him, it would have been very difficult to beat a good team like Pittsfield."
In the penalty kicks, Martinez stuffed a shot from Matthews on the first go-through, then after Hussein Abdi scored in the fourth round to put Central up 3-2, Martinez stopped a shot from Mendez again to keep it at 3-2 after four rounds. In the fifth round, needing the goal to seal it, Andrew Johnson stepped up and fired in the winner past Avi Snowise — who himself had an incredible game, only to be left in tears at the very end.
"Andrew — ice in his veins. There's no question about it, that's why I put him in the fifth spot, he's earned it, and he did his job," Arel said.
The loss hit Snowise particularly hard afterward. But while the sophomore might be left wondering "what if" on the penalties, his coach noted that Snowise showed a level of poise and command that he wanted to see from his 'keeper.
"That penalty kick he did save, that's a top-class save," Antil said, referencing Snowise's stop of Juan Hernandez Jr. in the second round of kicks. "That's the thing, he takes it hard because he's very hard on himself, but that's what makes him such a great goalkeeper. I couldn't ask any more from him. I think this is the best game that he's played all season, hands down. ... He was talking and he played like a varsity, Western Mass. tournament player."
Martinez's heroics late also meant a critical pair of Snowise saves in the first overtime went for naught. With Central remaining deadly on the counter attack while PHS kept pressing for a winner, Snowise dove low to stop Abdi, then handled a screaming free kick from Joe Dominguez right before the end of the first overtime.
Abdi put Central ahead in the first half on a corner kick. With Joe McCoy whipping the ball in, Ben Ryan rose highest to nod the ball down in the box, then Abdi poked the ball home at the far post.
The goal put PHS in disarray for the first 40 minutes. The one clear-cut chance PHS got came through Matthews, who had a shot repelled by Martinez but put back into play. Max Whalen was there for the rebound, but the senior captain somehow put his shot off the post instead of in the net.
At halftime, Antil said his message to the team was simple — calm down, and play your style of soccer.
"We came out with a plan [in the first half], they just didn't play it," Antil said. "We played into what they wanted to do. They had a really good system, they opened up the pass to the forward, then collapsed on the forward and took the ball away. We needed to identify that earlier, and we needed to just play our system, trust our system."
When PHS did start trusting the process, the dividends were almost enough to win the game in regulation.
Matthews tallied the equalizer on a long throw-in. The ball on the throw went to Mendez first, who headed down for Matthews to run onto. Matthews then sized up Martinez, lifted the ball over him and a Central player finished it off by heading the ball into the net instead of out of play.
From there, the game was one-way traffic. Matthews got a golden opportunity with just over five minutes to play when a ball from Mendez set him free, but again, Martinez was there to make the save. As full time edged even closer, Kevin Amenlemah got freed up down the right wing, but Martinez hopped off his line and swatted the ball away.
"We created really well, we started to impose our system on them, we started to move the ball around back and forth and find the open spaces and play away from the crowd," Antil said "Throughout the game, just too many turnovers. Too many turnovers, lack of control of the ball, lack of short passes on the ground.
After the two overtime periods were scoreless, both coaches said they had their penalty takers lined up and ready to go. Both sides saw their players hit well-struck kicks, it was just that Martinez got to two, while Snowise only got to one.
"These are good players, and those were decent shots, they were just better saves," Antil said. "What are you going to do?"
The one small glimmer of hope for PHS after the game came with the thought of next season. While the losses of Whalen, Kevin Amenlemah, Emmanuel Amenlemah, Sumowo Harris and Mehki Romero will hurt the team chemistry some, the Generals return their whole back line — Ben Brooks, Hedi Abderrahim, Patrick Silva and Cole Masiero — plus Snowise, Matthews, Mendez and others. The Generals also had three freshman play quality minutes in the tournament loss.
PHS finishes the year with a 9-7-3 record. Central advances to play No. 1 Ludlow in the quarterfinals.
Central 1 0 — 1
Pittsfield 0 1 — 1
(Central won 4-2 on penalty kicks)
C — Hussein Abdi (Ben Ryan), 11:12.
P — Carter Matthews (Cristian Mendez), 50:47.
Penalty kicks — Central 4 (Lyando Wray G, Juan Hernandez Jr. NG, Joe McCoy G, Abdi G, Andrew Johnson G); Pittsfield 2 (Matthews NG, Sam Higuera G, Hedi Abderrahim G, Mendez NG).
Saves — C: Orlando Martinez 12. P: Avi Snowise 7.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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