Ninety minutes with no separation…Falmouth, Portland settle for tie

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Portland senior Sam Nkurunziza shields Falmouth junior Tom Fitzgerald from the ball during the teams’ scoreless draw Tuesday night.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—It was physical, passionate and there was a postseason feel in the air when Portland hosted Falmouth in a boys’ soccer showdown Tuesday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Ultimately, both teams went home with something, shared Heal Points, if not resolution, and it won’t come as a surprise if the Bulldogs and Yachtsmen square off again next month with even more at stake.

Portland, coming off consecutive losses, and Falmouth, riding a two-game win streak, played an even first half, devoid of great chances, and the teams went to the break scoreless.

The Bulldogs then had the better of play in the second half, but couldn’t solve the Yachtsmen defense and sophomore goalkeeper Alvaro Fuentes-Cantillina.

Ten minutes of overtime attempted to produce some separation, but despite good looks at both ends, neither team was able to put the ball in the goal and Falmouth and Portland settled for a scoreless draw.

The Yachtsmen are now 2-1-1 on the season, while the Bulldogs are 1-2-1 and there is reason for both squads to believe that they’re only going to get better in the weeks to come.

“It was a great game between two evenly matched teams,” said longtime Portland coach Rocco Frenzilli. “I’m never satisfied without a ‘W,’ but if you have to have something, this is a good step.”

“We’re two good teams,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “We made some mistakes we can correct. They pressured us and we regrouped and got organized. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Early gut-check

Portland came into the season as the reigning Class A South champion and a favorite to get back to to the state game, but after downing host Massabesic (3-1) in their opener, the Bulldogs lost at home to Kennebunk (3-1) and Gorham (3-1).

Falmouth, a semifinalist in 2017, started with a 2-1 loss at Cheverus, then blanked visiting Bonny Eagle (3-0) and Noble (5-0).

Last fall, in the teams’ first-ever regular season encounter, Falmouth won at home, 1-0, in overtime, on then-sophomore Tom Fitzgerald’s goal.

The squads have been regular playoff foes, meeting in three of the past five postseasons, with Portland winning twice.

Tuesday, both teams had chances, but neither could put the ball in the net as they wound up splitting Heal Points.

The Yachtsmen pressured early, earning a corner kick, then getting a nice feed from senior Nik Hester into the box, meant for sophomore Gus Ford, but Bulldogs sophomore goalkeeper Henry Flynn got to the ball first.

After Hester headed a free kick just high, Flynn punched away a Falmouth corner kick.

In the 13th minute, a Fitzgerald free kick deflected off a Portland defender and appeared goal-bound, but it hit the near post instead.

The Bulldogs then transitioned to offense, where freshman Carlos Braceras crossed the ball into the box, but no one could reach it and sophomore Anselmo Tela had a long shot saved by Fuentes-Cantillina.

Late in the half, Flynn had to lunge to deny Fitzgerald, Portland senior Berrick Bobe  sent a shot just wide, Flynn broke up a Ford rush and a blast by Bulldogs sophomore Gracien Mukwa deflected off a defender, but Fuentes-Cantillina came up with it and the game went to the break scoreless.

In the first 40 minutes, the Bulldogs had a 3-1 edge in shots on frame, while Falmouth had a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks, but the scoreboard still read 0-0.

The Yachtsmen threatened first in the second half, when Hester headed a free kick off the foot of senior Owen Mahoney on target, but Flynn made the save.

Portland then carried play for most of the rest of regulation.

First, a throw from senior Pedro Fonseca deflected to sophomore Max Cheever, who shot wide.

After Fuentes-Cantillina broke up a feed from senior Sam Nkurunziza to senior Keto Tchiputo, Tchiputo had a beautiful cross to junior Alex Millones, but Millones couldn’t quite his foot on the ball.

With 26:16 to go in regulation, a low shot from Tchiputo forced Fuentes-Cantillina to sprawl to save.

At the other end, Fitzgerald made Flynn hit the ground to save his shot.

After Bobe’s header on a corner kick went high, Mukwa fired a left-footed shot that Fuentes-Cantillina saved.

Tela got his head on a pass from Cheever with 12:45 on the clock, but that shot was saved, as was a header by junior Eric Mukwa on a free kick from senior Tyler Lemay with 10:46 remaining.

“I enjoyed the build up and the effort,” Frenzilli said. “Those are the chances we have to finish. The finishes will come and when they do, we’ll be OK.”

With a minute left, a free kick by Tchiputo was blocked and Falmouth transitioned to offense, where it almost got the elusive goal.

With 41 seconds remaining, after the ball was batted around, it came right to Fitzgerald, who went one-on-one with Flynn, but Flynn made his best save of the night to send the game to overtime.

“Don’t think I wasn’t thinking about Tommy Fitzgerald beating us last year,” Frenzilli said.

In high school soccer, teams play up to two five-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes to determine a winner, but there would be no winner on this night.

The Bulldogs almost ended it 36 seconds into the first OT, as Cheever crossed the ball to Tchiputo, but he chipped his shot just over the crossbar.

With 3:12 left, a shot from Gracien Mukwa deflected off a defender, but Fuentes-Cantillina grabbed it.

With 1:35 on the clock, a long shot from Nkurunziza was saved and 33 seconds later, Fonseca got the ball to Tela, who shot just wide.

A dose of controversy was injected into the contest with 15 seconds left in the first overtime, when Tela was brought down and a foul was called.

Portland believed the foul occurred in the box and that time should be stopped and a penalty kick awarded, but instead, the ball was placed just outside the box and the Bulldogs weren’t able to do anything with a free kick as time ran out.

“(The officials) said (the foul) was outside the box,” Frenzilli said. “It is what it is.”

Falmouth then controlled the second extra session.

First, junior Joe Dye fired a shot just high.

With 2 minutes on the clock, Fitzgerald sent the ball in from the side of the box and Ford got his head on it, but it went wide.

With 1:03 remaining, sophomore Ben Greene fired a left-footed rocket just high.

That did it for chances and the contest ended 0-0.

“Their keeper made a great save and they had some chances,” Halligan said. “They’re bigger and stronger than us right now, but we’re making strides.”

Portland had a 7-4 edge in shots and a 7-6 advantage in corner kicks. Flynn stopped four shots.

Falmouth got seven saves from Fuentes-Cantillina.

“(Alvaro’s) special,” Halligan said. “He keeps us in games. He gives us confidence.”

New setting

Portland will try again to get in the win column when it goes to Cheverus Thursday. The Bulldogs are back at Fitzpatrick Stadium Tuesday to face Bonny Eagle.

“We needed something like this because we’ve been struggling,” Frenzilli said. “We’ll look forward to Cheverus Thursday. It won’t get any easier. Everybody is playing great. It’s a good league.”

Falmouth hosts Sanford Friday night, then plays at Westbrook Monday.

“We have to play at Cheverus, at Portland, at Deering, at Gorham and at Scarborough,” Halligan said. “That will make us better. We just want to get in the tournament. I don’t care where we get in.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland senior Alex Millones boots the ball.

Portland senior Pedro Fonseca tries to get past Falmouth junior Joe Dye.

Falmouth senior Nik Hester controls the ball.

Falmouth junior Macklin Williams, Portland sophomore Anselmo Tela and Falmouth junior Joe Dye fight for the ball.

Portland sophomore goalkeeper Henry Flynn dives to make a save as Falmouth sophomore Gus Ford looks on.

Portland sophomore Anselmo Tela heads the ball in a crowd.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.