SCARBOROUGH—Two of the top contenders in Western Class A boys’ soccer squared off Tuesday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex and 90 minutes of spirited play resolved absolutely nothing.
The defending Western A champion Portland Bulldogs went to the perennial powerhouse Scarborough Red Storm for the teams’ lone regular season meeting, one rife with Heal Points implications.
Confirming the perception that there’s little difference between the region’s top contenders, the Red Storm had its share of first half chances and the Bulldogs carried the play in the second half, but the game went to overtime scoreless and it wound up that way ending Scarborough’s nine-game, seven-year win streak against Portland.
“It was a great game between what I thought, were two excellent teams,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Rocky Frenzilli. “Obviously, you want the ‘W,’ but if you don’t get that, I think this was appropriate with how both teams played.”
“The guys aren’t too happy about it,” countered Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. “Especially when you work that hard, which both teams did. I think we played hard enough to win. Their keeper made some nice saves and the ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Since joining the Southern Maine Activities Association in 2003, Scarborough has dominated not just Portland, but pretty much every other team that has crossed its path.
The Bulldogs have only beaten the Red Storm twice.
The first came in the 2002 quarterfinals (2-0), when Scarborough played a Class B regular season, then played up for the postseason.
On Sept. 24, 2003, Portland visited the Red Storm and triumphed, 3-1, but on the same field five weeks later, Scarborough got a measure of revenge with an epic 3-2 (triple overtime) triumph in the Western A semifinals.
Since then, the Bulldogs have struggled mightily at the hands of their tormentors.
From 2004 through 2009, the Red Storm won all seven meetings by a composite 32-6 margin. That included a 7-2 Scarborough romp in the 2009 regional semifinals.
Last year, the Red Storm was a 3-1 winner at the Bulldogs, but Portland wouldn’t lose again in the regular season and went on to the state final before dropping a 3-2 decision to Bangor. Scarborough was the top seed for the playoffs, but was upset by Kennebunk in penalty kicks in the quarterfinal round.
So far in 2011, form has more or less held for the teams.
Portland did fall in its opener, 3-2, to visiting Windham, but bounced back to blank host Noble, 4-0, and visiting Deering, 2-0.
Scarborough won its first three games without surrendering a goal, beating visiting South Portland (2-0), host Marshwood (5-0) and host Gorham (1-0, on senior Andrew Jones’ second half highlight reel goal).
Tuesday, the Red Storm dictated play in the first half, but the Bulldogs answered in the second.
Ultimately, no one was able to tickle the twine.
The first good bid came in the ninth minute when Scarborough junior John Wheeler got his head on a corner kick, but Bulldogs’ junior goalkeeper Chip Weber made the save.
In the 17th minute, Red Storm junior Chris Cleary launched a rocket of a free kick, but Weber punched it away at the last moment. Four minutes later, Scarborough sophomore Sam Cekada took a nice pass from senior Trey Chamberlain, but shot high.
Portland’s first look came in the 22nd minute when senior Alan Tuyishime raced for a loose ball in the box, but couldn’t reach it.
The hosts’ best scoring bid came with 15:43 to go in the half. Just after Portland sophomore Tony Yekah sent a header over the goal at one end, junior Trevor Sparda delivered a left-footed blast that Weber had to go all out to save.
“It was more a reaction save,” said Weber. “I was lucky our defense stayed tight. There were definitely chances. Possession-wise it was a good, even match. We’re getting it together. It starts with the defense in the back. Everyone’s marking well.”
“Tony puts a header over the top and their kid had a rip at the corner that Chip got a hand on,” Frenzilli marveled.
With 9:35 left before halftime, Bulldogs junior Tim Rovnak got his head on a corner kick that Scarborough sophomore goalkeeper Pat Stanton had to punch away.
In the final minute, Red Storm sophomore Charlie Mader sent a header on goal which Weber denied.
In the second half, Portland began to push for the lead.
In the 47th minute, a Rovnak rush was broken up by a sliding Stanton.
With 28:47 left in regulation, Sparda shot high with Weber out of position.
“Sparda might have been my most consistent player, top to bottom,” said Diaz. “This might have been his best game. He’s very relaxed. He never gets frantic or upset.”
Three minutes later, a Portland corner kick resulted in the ball landing untouched in the box, but it was cleared out of harm’s way.
“We told (the guys) at halftime that we needed to stretch it wide,” Frenzilli said. “We were too mainstream, down the middle in the first half. In the second half, we stretched out a little bit. Alan and (freshmen) Gulad (Hussain-Ali) and Guled (Hussain-Ali) did a nice job going wide and (senior) Paley (Burlin) and Alan fed balls to the wing. Timmy did a great job up top, raising havoc.”
With 14:49 to play, Scarborough junior Austin Downing fired a shot that Weber saved. A little over a minute later, Sparda’s cross just eluded Downing. With 9:20 left, Red Storm junior Dan Ornstein sent a header just wide.
In the 79th minute, Yekah’s header went high and 35 seconds later, Downing had a blast that Weber saved and it was on to overtime.
In the first five-minute, sudden-victory overtime period, Rovnak had a good look broken up by Red Storm senior Johnny Passarelli, who slid into the ball at the last moment and Wheeler’s header attempt in the box was broken up by Weber.
In the second OT, Portland earned a corner kick, but couldn’t get a good look. With 2:20 to go and Weber out of position, the ball was cleared before Jones could get his head on it.
“I thought we’d get one at the end,” said Diaz. “I thought Andrew was going to head one over the goalie.”
With 1:31 left, Ornstein’s floater into the box was cleared away by Bulldogs senior Brett O’Kelly. In the waning seconds, Portland senior Paley Burlin had a free kick, but sent it right at Stanton. The hosts transitioned, but Downing’s last second bid was cradled by Weber and the final score read 0-0.
While Portland appeared happier with the tie, both teams took positives from the game.
“We’re happy and disappointed,” said Weber. “We’re happy with the way we played. We’re just disappointed with the outcome. They’re a good team.”
“It was a great game,” Frenzilli said. “A joy to be part of. I’m really proud of the kids. Scarborough played very well. I thought the game went exactly the way a tie game would go. The scorebook was a mirror, shots, corners, of the play on the field. There weren’t a lot of great chances. I wanted it to be this kind of a game. These kids came and gave it their all. I’m happy with the result.
“If you’re going to stop an offensive team like that, what better way to do it than not giving up any? We wanted to get one ourselves. The kids had great resolve, worked hard all game and worked for each other.”
“I’m proud of how we played defensively,” Diaz said. “We didn’t get enough chances. We needed more. (Portland) took a defensive mindset to this game. They dropped one of their forwards to midfield. They gave up some scoring opportunities. We’re young and get impatient sometimes. The guys work hard and respond to challenges. I think the worst part is getting shut out. If we see them again, we’ll have to make adjustments.”
Both teams have tough tests on Thursday. The Red Storm go to dangerous Cheverus, while the Bulldogs host Gorham in a rematch of last year’s regional final.
Each squad knows it needs to improve, but both have the pieces in place for November greatness.
“These are big (Heal Points) games,” said Diaz. “These are games to get Points and set yourself up for the tournament and getting the right spot. We’re still figuring things out. I have four or five sophomores. Only three returning starters. They’re giving me all I’m asking for. This group won’t stop.”
“I’m guardedly optimistic about our chances,” said Frenzilli. “I want our kids to continue to do well. We’re four games into the season. Obviously, this was a character, identifying game for us. This is what they needed to believe. We have a day’s rest and have Gorham coming in. No rest for the weary.”