Deering sophomore goalkeeper Max Morrione soars above the crowd to cradle the ball during the Rams’ 1-1 home tie against rival Portland Thursday night.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Thursday evening’s Deering-Portland boys’ soccer showdown was so good that neither team deserved to lose.
And neither the Bulldogs or Rams did.
In the latest chapter of one of the state’s most emotional rivalries and a rematch of last year’s playoff thriller, Portland took a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute, when senior Zekariya Shaib scored on a header off a throw-in from junior Pedro Fonseca.
The Bulldogs, who beat the Rams, 1-0, in the 2016 Class A South quarterfinals, almost doubled their lead, but hit the post and when the second half began, Deering was a different team.
With 32:30 remaining in regulation, off a corner kick, junior Kato Tchiputo served the ball in and junior Chris Kombo soared and headed it home to tie the score.
Portland had ample chances to re-take the lead, but the Rams’ defense and sophomore goalkeeper Max Morrione stood tall and the game went to overtime.
There, 10 minutes couldn’t determine a winner and the squads settled for a 1-1 draw for the second regular season in a row.
The Bulldogs are now 9-1-1 and Deering is 6-3-1 and there’s a good chance that the rivals will meet again later this month with even more on the line.
“We’re getting better and better,” said Rams coach Joel Costigan. “It didn’t seem like we had energy at the start, but we reminded the boys of last year and it inspired us.”
“It was a very entertaining game,” said longtime Portland coach Rocco Frenziili. “You throw the scorebooks, the rulebooks, the playbooks and records out when we play.”
Coming into play Thursday, Portland held a 7-3 edge (with four ties) since the start of the 2004 season (see sidebar, below). That includes a Bulldogs win turned forfeit in 2012. Last year, the teams settled for a 1-1 draw in the regular season and in the Class A South quarterfinals, a late Deering goal was overturned due to offsides and the Bulldogs managed to get the game’s lone tally to advance, 1-0.
This fall, both teams have been in the mix in the deepest region in memory.
The Rams began with a 1-0 home win over perennial powerhouse Scarborough. After dropping a frustrating 2-1 decision at Gorham, Deering blanked visiting Biddeford (3-0), host Massabesic (1-0) and visiting Noble (2-0), then defeated host Kennebunk (2-1) and visiting Windham (3-1). The Rams then fell at Falmouth (2-1) and at home to Cheverus (1-0).
The Bulldogs started by blanking visiting Massabesic (3-0), host Kennebunk (2-0) and visiting Windham (5-0). After a 2-1 win at Gorham in a rematch of last year’s frustrating regional final, Portland fell in overtime at Falmouth (1-0), but bounced back to down visiting Cheverus (4-1), host Bonny Eagle (2-1, in OT), visiting Sanford (3-0), visiting Westbrook (3-1) and host Marshwood (3-0).
Thursday, both teams showed why they’ve enjoyed success, but ultimately, they couldn’t decide a winner.
The Bulldogs came out strong and were rewarded with 27:44 to go in the first half, when Fonseca’s throw set up Shaib for a header which Morrione couldn’t handle.
Portland wanted to add to its lead, but later in the first half, freshman Gracien Mukwa hit the post and the game remained 1-0.
The Bulldogs nearly got some breathing room less than three minutes into the second half, but senior Daniel Hanley was robbed by Morrione on the doorstep.
Two minutes later, off a corner kick, Portland got another great chance, but senior Jonathan Mukwa shot just wide.
With 32:30 to go, Deering earned a corner kick and made the most of it to pull even.
Tchiputo set it up by lofting the ball right in front when Kombo soared above the crowd and knocked it into the net to make the score, 1-1.
“We’ve been struggling on set pieces,” Costigan said. “We need to work on it. It was good to see a goal.”
“They earned that corner and made it happen,” Frenzilli said. “It was a great header. He was up over everybody and put it down.”
In a five-minute span, the Bulldogs earned four corners of their own, but couldn’t convert, as Shaib and Gracien Mukwa both missed in close.
With 23:28 left, Portland senior Quinn Clarke fired a shot on goal which Morrione saved.
After Shaib missed just wide, then shot high, with 13:18 remaining, a shot by Bulldogs senior Dana Hinchliffe appeared goal-bound, but at the last second, Deering junior Abdirizak Ibrahim swept the ball off the line to keep the game deadlocked.
Late in regulation, Bulldogs junior Samuel Nkurunziza missed wide, junior Berrick Bobe had a header saved by a leaping Morrione and as time wound down, Tchiputo missed just high, sending the game to overtime.
In the first five-minute, “sudden victory” OT, Morrione had to leap to save a long free kick from Portland sophomore Alex Millones, a Millones free kick from the side ricocheted to sophomore Than Tiparos, who shot high, and Millones missed just wide after a turnover.
That sent the game to the final extra session, where each team had a corner kick which didn’t result in a shot and Deering senior Nick James and Gracien Mukwa both had shots blocked, which brought the curtain down on the 1-1 tie.
“It was a very entertaining game,” Frenzilli said. “I don’t think we came out with enough energy in the second half. We hoped to match what we did in the first. They took advantage and to their credit, they came out and worked hard and got the equalizer, but I’m very pleased. These guys have worked hard.”
“I thought they handled us in the first half, the ball was in our half the whole time, but we made adjustments and did a lot better in the second half,” Costigan said. “Not only energy level, because Portland brings a lot of energy, but we played balls to feet better.”
The Bulldogs had an 8-3 edge in shots and got two saves from senior goalkeeper Rowan Daligan.
Deering got seven saves from Morrione.
“I love how my goalkeeper is playing,” Costigan said. “He’s only a sophomore, but he’s playing better and better and was the star of the game today.”
Deering (now sixth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back in action Saturday at Bonny Eagle. After going to Sanford Tuesday, the Rams host Westbrook next Thursday, then close at Marshwood Oct. 16.
“I hope this gets us back on track,” said Costigan. “Bonny Eagle is dangerous. I don’t know what to expect. That could be some good Heal Points for us. For us, it’s all about energy and attitude. We have to keep our composure.”
Portland (third behind South Portland and Falmouth in the region) has no easy games the rest of the way, playing host to the undefeated Red Riots Tuesday, visiting Scarborough Thursday of next week, then closing at home versus Thornton Academy Oct. 16.
“We’re a good team, but we’re not close to being what we could be,” said Frenzilli. “We have a big one coming up Tuesday, then we have to go to Scarborough, then we have TA. It’s a tough October, but if we’re going to get ready, but we have to play hard and intense. It’s been a playoff atmosphere every game we’ve played. You go from to 1 to 8 or 9 or even 10 and every team is dangerous. I don’t take anyone lightly. All the matchups will be contested and tough.”
Portland senior Jonathan Mukwa races up the field as Deering senior Jonah Peterson gives chase.
Portland junior Pedro Fonseca battles Deering junior Abdirizak Ibrahim along the sideline.
Portland senior Jonathan Mukwa tries to get past Deering senior Abdullah Kailayaf.
Portland senior Zekariya Shaib sends the ball on goal.
Portland senior Zekariya Shaib heads the ball past Deering sophomore goalkeeper Max Morrione for the game’s first goal.
Portland senior Zekariya Shaib, center, is congratulated after scoring the game’s first goal.
@ Deering 1 Portland 1 (tie)
Class A South quarterfinals
Portland 1 @ Deering 0
Deering 1 @ Portland 0 (2 OT)
@ Portland 2 Deering 0
Portland 2 @ Deering 0
(forfeited to a 1-0 Deering win)
@ Portland 2 Deering 0
Portland 5 @ Deering 2
@ Portland 2 Deering 2 (tie)
Portland 2 @ Deering 1 (OT)
Deering 4 @ Portland 3
@ Deering 2 Portland 2 (tie)
@ Portland 1 Deering 1 (tie)
Portland 1 @ Deering 0