CUMBERLAND — Saturday evening’s boys’ soccer contest between the host Rangers of Greely and the Yarmouth Clippers served as an accurate barometer of where both teams stand at the midway point of the 2009 season.
The Clippers, the defending Class B state champions, got to the brink of their first undefeated September since 2005 with their proven method of triumph: strong defense and opportunistic offense, keyed by unselfish senior Ebrahim Fazeli.
The Rangers, Class A champions in 2007 and regional runners-up a year ago, have just one starter returning this autumn and hung close as expected, but couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities.
Yarmouth got a goal and two assists from Fazeli and pulled away late to improve to 6-0-1 (dropping Greely to 6-2 in the process) with a 3-0 decision.
“It really wasn’t a 3-0 game,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “Greely’s good. The first half was evenly played. In the second half, our depth played a role. We kept our kids fresh.”
“I liked our effort, it was just the little things,” lamented Greely coach Mike Andreasen. “I didn’t see any quit in us tonight. We showed a little bit of passion.”
Saturday night special
With Yarmouth graduated standout Johnny Murphy (now at Bates), the Clippers came into the 2009 campaign feeling they might be an all-around better team this season. Yarmouth rolled to a 9-0 win at Wells in its opener, eked out a 2-1 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, then downed visiting Freeport and Gray-New Gloucester by 1-0 margins. After playing visiting rival Falmouth to a compelling 1-1 draw Sept. 17, the Clippers improved to 5-0-1 with a 5-0 triumph at Fryeburg.
While Greely is a new-look team in 2009, the Rangers won six of their first seven games. Greely was a 3-0 victor at Freeport, then, after falling 4-2 at home to Falmouth, downed Wells (14-0), York (5-0), Lake Region (6-1), Poland (4-0) and Fryeburg (3-0).
Last year, Yarmouth swept Greely for the first time this decade, 1-0 in Cumberland and 2-1 on the Clippers’ turf. Saturday, Yarmouth made it three it in a row, but it wasn’t easy.
Greely had its chances in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize. The visitors broke the ice on a set piece, their specialty, when Fazeli sent a corner kick to the front post where junior Nick Whittaker pounced on the loose ball and sent it into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.
Yarmouth doubled its lead in the second half on another corner kick. This one evoked the goal that gave the Clippers the Western B crown a year ago. Fazeli’s corner kick drifted toward the back post and junior Luke Pierce reprised his role from last November, heading the ball into the goal for his seventh tally of the year and a 2-0 lead.
“(Eb’s) done a good job knowing he needs to be selfish at the right
times,” said Hagerty. “When you score two goals on a corner kick, a lot of that has to
do with a good serve. The first was to the front post and the second was
the back. The first one, the ball dropped at the front post. It was
more of a scrum goal. We pushed the back post on the second one. Eb
served it accurately. Tonight was probably his best game to pick when
to be selfish. He involved everybody.”
“We’re making critical mistakes,” Andreasen said. “We worked in practice pretty much exclusively on defending corner kicks and they scored twice. Yarmouth will get you on the set pieces. We’re not a good team coming from behind. When it got to be 2-0, it was lights out. Fazeli’s such a tough matchup. I think he’s elevated himself as one of the top kids around. We’re looking for a guy like that.”
Greely didn’t quit and attempted to rally. In the 71st minute, the Rangers argued for a penalty kick after a player got roughed up in the box, but the call never came. Then, in the waning moments, Fazeli got a chance to finish, controlling the ball just inside midfield, spotting the Rangers’ keeper out of the cage and launching a shot over senior Patrick Blum into the goal to account for the 3-0 final.
“I looked up and saw the goalie was out a little bit so I shot,” said Fazeli, who has five goals and a whopping nine assists to date. “We expected a good game. Greely’s always good.”
The Clippers wound up with an 8-3 shots-on-frame advantage. Greely had nine corner kicks to six for Yarmouth. Blum had five saves, while Yarmouth senior A.J. Oliver made three in earning his fifth shutout victory of the year.
“(Greely) could have had a PK and it could have been 2-1,” Hagerty said. “A PK wouldn’t have been a deciding factor, but it would have changed the last eight minutes. I like that we
scored two good goals, then the third was icing. It’s the best midway record we’ve had in awhile. We usually
lose in September.
pleased. Luke Pierce was great in the midfield. (Seniors) Colby (Shields) and Ryan (Melvin), our two
central defenders, did a nice job organizing things. Our shape wasn’t
great in the first half. We tightened it up in the second half and
that’s due to Ryan and Colby.”
Andreasen wasn’t discouraged in the aftermath of the loss.
“Getting one would have been nice, there’s no shame in losing 2-1,” he said.
“Yarmouth’s really good. We played hard. I thought we played a better 80
minutes tonight. They have three all-state
players back and we have one starter back. We knew it would be an
Greely (6-2 and ninth in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings, the top nine teams qualify for the playoffs) still faces the meat of its schedule and desperately needs a big win or two.
“This was our shot
with (Yarmouth) because it’s a slower field,” Andreasen said. “To me, Falmouth is out of this
world. Cape we haven’t seen. They have some good players back. Cape and
us are kind of battling for the same thing. We don’t make the playoffs
just to make the playoffs. We make the playoffs to compete for a state championship. If
we’re 0-6 against the big three, we’re not good enough to win a
The Rangers go to Cape Elizabeth Thursday and play at Falmouth Saturday. Greely also hosts the Capers Oct. 14 and closes the regular season at Yarmouth Oct. 20.
The Clippers moved into first in the Western B Heals with the win, but also have a long way to go. Yarmouth is keeping a close eye on Falmouth. The teams meet again Oct. 8. The Clippers were home with York Wednesday and go to Cape Elizabeth Saturday night.
“We had to win this to keep pace with Falmouth, who
already beat Greely,” said Hagerty. “We knew Greely really needed this game.”
“I think our biggest competition is always Falmouth,” added Fazeli. “It felt good to play them well the first time. We look forward to our next game with them. I think our team is better than last year. We’re faster and stronger and the team chemistry is where it needs to be. We’re seeded well right now. We want to stay up there and have homefield for the playoffs. I think we’re at a point where we’ll keep progressing. Our new players are doing well. We’re getting good contributions. We have good depth.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Greely senior Nat LeBlanc played the ball while Yarmouth sophomore Chris Knaub looked on.
Greely junior Jon Coyne split Yarmouth junior Kyle Groves (left) and senior Travis Merrill in heading a ball toward the offensive end Saturday. Despite a valiant effort, the Rangers fell to 6-2 with a 3-0 loss.
Yarmouth junior Luke Pierce (who scored his team’s second goal) and Greely senior Nat LeBlanc battled for the ball in the second half.
Greely senior Matti Ingraham played the ball with Yarmouth sophomore Sam Torres paying him close attention. Yarmouth pitched its fifth shutout of the year, 3-0.
Greely junior Jon Coyne split Yarmouth junior Kyle Groves (left) and
senior Travis Merrill in heading a ball toward the offensive end
Saturday. Despite a valiant effort, the Rangers suffered a 3-0
Yarmouth senior goalkeeper A.J. Oliver went way up to punch away a
Greely corner kick during seond half action Saturday night. The
Clippers improved to 6-0-1 with a 3-0 victory.