Everyone and their grandmother had this match circled on the calendar – the KingCo 4A leading 8-1 Redmond Mustangs against perennial powerhouse Skyline, who were riding a five game winning streak.
Right off of the opening whistle, Skyline applied pressure against the RHS back line, resulting in a few early errant passes but Redmond was able to ride the swell and eventually settle down. The intensity was on full display, and it was fun to watch Diaz wrestle the ball away from the Skyline coach for a throw in. The Stangs also showed some early offensive promise and were able to get in a few Stein to Dadzie connections. Unfortunately, the early promise didn’t produce immediate dividends for the Stangs, and they found themselves playing catch-up after a Spartan corner in the sixth minute went un-cleared and hit the back of the near-post net for the 0-1 Skyline lead.
The RHS defense was working overtime to ensure that the one goal deficit did not grow larger. A scary Skyline corner bounced around in the RHS box for a spell and was flicked by keeper Escalante’s outstretched hand to the trusty foot of Bury for the clearance. As the match progressed, Skyline leveraged the long throw to put balls dangerously deep into the box from the touch line, and Escalante and Co. were repeating the “bend but don’t break” mantra to themselves.
Redmond countered and found some good looks themselves, with a Stein pass searching for an unmarked streaking Rabadan on the wing, only to be frantically smothered by the Spartan keeper at the top of the box. After a few minutes another chance emerged, with Henandez delivering a wonderful cross to a very dangerous place but alas no Stangs were reared to tap it in. Redmond was also bitten by the offside bug a few times in this match which negated sure offensive chances from Stein and Dadzie runs. As the half wound down, a Michalski feed to a sprinting Price down the left wing raised some hopes and resulted in a shot on goal, which was saved and swatted out by the Skyline keeper for an RHS corner.
The Stangs came out for the second half with renewed determination and grit. The excitement and anticipation levels were palpable. Redmond quickly found themselves with possibilities, Michalski and Dadzie leading the charge deep downfield for a cross just past the outstretched foot of Stein. On the defensive side of the ball, freshman Hammond played with good awareness and stifled some Spartan attacks which were sure to otherwise materialize.
The intensity levels escalated as the match wore on, and Redmond fans were wondering if the Stangs would be rewarded for their persistent scurrying and hard-nosed scampering. And then it happened – with three minutes left in regulation, Dadzie picked up a free ball and casually offered a side-foot flick from midfield to a charging Stein who broke free of two defenders and befuddled the Skyline keeper with a near post strike. 1-1!
Overtime saw Redmond riding the momentum wave and with the Spartans on their heels, the Stangs provided virtually all of the offensive chances. A Diaz cross to a Dadzie header had some promise, but was nabbed high in the air by the Skyline keeper. A couple of minutes later, a Stein corner to a Dadzie one-touch strike looked like it had a chance, but alas, no dice. Great fight, Stangs!
Goals: 78’ (Stein, assist Dadzie)