By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manchester Flying Dutchmen Boys soccer season ended in the first round of District play on Oct. 15 against the Lenawee Christian Cougars.
Both teams are members of the Independent Soccer League East Division and have formed a rivalry since Manchester head coach Travis Baker took over as coach in 2016, with both sides struggling at home and winning on the road.
This year, the teams met three times, the third being Oct. 15 after drawing each other for the first round of postseason play.
On Sept 17, the Cougars traveled to Manchester and won 4-3. In that game the Dutchmen made a late second half comeback, scoring three consecutive goals in a matter of minutes to tie the game at three before surrendering a goal with under two minutes left.
On Oct. 4, the Dutchmen got their win, defeating the Cougars 3-2. The unranked Dutchmen upset the No. 5 ranked Cougars, scoring the first three goals before holding off a late Cougar push.
Their last meeting saw both teams ranked in the top 10 of the Div. 4 standings. The Dutchmen were ranked No. 9 and the Cougars No. 6.
The first half started slow, with neither side getting a great look on goal in the first ten minutes. Dutchmen senior goalkeeper Brayden Hayes had a sliding save on Cougar junior midfielder Tucker Rupp.
Four minutes later, Rupp had a good look on a nice pass he received on the back post but missed barely wide.
Dutchmen sophomore Adam Pringle served a perfect ball into the box on the next Dutchmen trip down the field, but no one could get a touch on it before it was cleared away.
Cougar sophomore Gabe Henley got the Cougars on the board first, finishing a ball in the box with 16:26 left to go in the half.
Manchester head coach Travis Baker didn’t need to change much, his team has been in this situation before against the Cougars and this game saw his team hold better possession and create more chances in the early portion of the game than the prior two meetings.
“We had possession, created some chances,” said Baker. “I thought there were some chances we should have taken that we didn’t. Or could have created a little bit better.”
Dutchmen freshman Max Edwards had the best look in the remainder of the first half, found open on the back post, he struck it high and on the frame, but the Cougar goalkeeper made a leaping save.
Hayes had two more saves and the Cougars missed a couple close shots to end the first half 1-0.
“We talked at halftime about needing to take more risks,” said Baker. “We didn’t take enough risks. Don’t take risks, don’t reap the reward. There just wasn’t enough of it in the first half and then there wasn’t anything to change for the second half. We’ve been here like fours time down 1-0 at halftime.”
Coming out of the half, the Dutchmen had multiple good looks, mostly sparked by all-time program leading scorer senior Lenin Fierro. Whether creating a shot for himself or finding a teammate the Dutchmen had a flurry of chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Fierro came the closest hitting the crossbar eight minutes into the second half.
Hayes came up with two more quality saves and the Dutchmen continued to get more good looks on goal in the next ten minutes of play.
The Dutchmen thought they had a goal putting away a rebound with 22 minutes remaining but the ball had hit off the field goal posts.
The Cougars would take control of the game scoring two more goals with under 20 minutes to go to seal the game. With 18:32 remaining Cougar junior Zach Riordan placed a ball in the back-left corner of the net, cleaning up a rebound in the box.
Riordan was involved in the next goal too, placing a perfect through all to Rupp with 15:42 remaining to make the score 3-1.
The Dutchmen began to play more aggressive and put more players forward and finally were able to break through. Senior midfielder River Spitler fired home a flick from Fierro who got it from a throw-in from the far sideline from senior midfielder Calvin Daniels with 3:54 left.
— Seth Kinker (@SethKinker) October 16, 2018
The Cougars sealed the game with 1:32 remaining, Henley notching his second goal of the night.
Finishing 15-7 on the season, Baker was disappointed exiting in districts but acknowledged the raising of the standards for the program.
“The keeper made a good save in the first half, we hit the crossbar in the second half,” said Baker. “We play the ball twice, two or three times at the goalkeeper after deflections. The all just really didn’t bounce our way. We didn’t play badly.”
“I don’t think I really have to say a lot to them,” said Baker on his post-game talk. “It’s a heavy group of seniors. They wanted it just as bad (as I did). They knew this could potentially be it, they did everything in their ability to do, just wasn’t enough tonight. They raised the expectations for this program and set the bar pretty high. Competitive in the ISL every year, we’ve been right there at the top all three years, just missed out to LCS by one game or point. The tightest of margins, really. So the expectations are a bit higher for the group next year then what I think they would normally be. Will we be the same team? No, we’ll be really young, but we’ve got kids that can step in and play a role. We’re just going to be rebuilding a bit. Expectation will still be there.