Game is hard fought, but without fighting this time


By Judith Stiles

It was just a year and a half ago that two opponents had a fight during a game, with parents running on the field to intervene (and argue), with curse words and a few fists flying, during a boys’ soccer match between Downtown United and BW Gottschee soccer clubs. The players were significantly smaller and younger in spring of 2004, and now with some trepidation, these two teams showed up on Sunday at Pier 40 for another match. Now playing in an under-14-year-old division, many of the boys had grown several inches, and in the middle of an adolescent growth spurt, a few were even sporting peach fuzz.

The teams looked different but about two-thirds of them were the same cast of characters, which left everyone somewhat edgy on the eve of the game. However on the morning of the game, Mother Nature intervened, bearing a crystal-clear blue sky and perfect fall temperatures, which completely took the tension out of the atmosphere like a deflated balloon. Contentment spread through the stands along with a cool breeze as the much-anticipated game began.

Coach Alex Cuba of Downtown United cleverly started with a 3-5-2 lineup (three defensemen, five midfielders and two forwards), in the hopes of creating an impenetrable wall of five players in the midfield. Andrew Cook was the goalkeeper for DUSC and in front of him was Paul Sanchez as their stellar sweeper, who almost single-handedly made it impossible for Gottschee to score a goal in the first half. Eight minutes into the game, Gottschee’s midfielder, Christian Johnson, took the first shot on goal from the 25-yard line but it sailed wide of the net. Four minutes later, he made a clean through pass to his winger, but Fani Ionnidis of DUSC, doing an outstanding job on defense, made it impossible for the Gottschee winger to take a shot.

A Downtown United Soccer Club player warmed up for the match.

Next, always quick on his feet and the scrappiest of skilled players, Jack Momeyer, DUSC’s center midfielder, flew after speedy Travis Wantchekon of Gottschee who was on a breakaway, but Momeyer expertly thwarted any shot. Minutes later, DUSC’s star midfielder Roddo DiStefano sent a beautiful through ball toward Gottschee goalie Johnny O’Hara, who came out of the box and kicked the ball out of the danger zone.

Quiet throughout the entire first half, Coach Cuba of DUSC called out just one thing before the halftime whistle, “Turn him off!” he yelled, as Gottschee’s Steve Gallego artfully dribbled around several DUSC players.

With no score at halftime and almost no shots on goal, some changes in both lineups were made as play resumed. Ten minutes into the second half, Gottschee’s Johnson attacked again, driving alone toward DUSC goalie Cook, who came out of the net and made a spectacular save. Minutes later, Nacho Martinez was fouled and went down on the ground with the wind knocked out of him. He was tenderly escorted off the field by his attentive mother, Edith. Again, in the second half there were very few shots taken by either team because the defense on both teams was solid.

With seven minutes to go before the end of the game, the one and only fluke goal was scored by Gottschee. There was a lot of traffic in front of the DUSC net, and as a Gottschee forward took a shot into the traffic, the ball bounced off a DUSC defender who had tried to head it away from the net. As the ball popped upward from the DUSC defenseman’s head, in a split second, Cook in goal tried to tap the ball up and out, but Eddie Carracioli of Gottschee chested the loose ball into the back of the net for the goal. Some fans say the ball was already in the net, others say it was not, but all agreed that Cook was screened from seeing the action, and had almost no chance to make the save.

With less than five minutes to go before game’s end, DUSC gave it their all, as Martin Garces made a beautiful cross to Youssef Fahr, who blasted a rocket shot that went over the net. Marcello Torrone played a feisty aggressive defense for DUSC, which helped keep the score down, and welcome back Drake Berglund of DUSC who recently moved back from Capetown, South Africa, about five inches taller, just in time to help control the midfield, which he did with aplomb.

Although Gottschee got the win, 1-0, all the spectators and players won for good sportsmanship. Both sides agreed that it was a well-played, competitive game, and the players were most appreciative of the unusually mellow fans who had succumbed to the beauty of the day.