No. 4 Loyola ties McDonogh, secures bye

Boys soccer

October 23, 2003|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

For undefeated and No. 4 Loyola, yesterday's 1-1 tie with No. 5 McDonogh was bittersweet.

The Dons (16-0-2 overall, 12-0-2 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference) clinched one of the top two playoff spots in a six-team field, including a first-round bye and semifinal-round home-field advantage.

But host Loyola dominated for most of the game at Blakefield. It led 1-0 from the 20th minute after Matt Curran's breakaway goal before suffering a defensive breakdown in the 79th minute that allowed the Eagles to tie on a header by Matt Beckman.

"It was pretty frustrating," said Curran, who scored his 16th goal this season by outrunning defender Cameron Watkins and then beating diving goalkeeper Alex Horwath inside the 18-yard line. "We've given up both ties in the last two minutes, which means we've played well for all but four minutes this season."

Loyola goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald was outstanding again with 13 saves.

"He made two amazing saves at the end of overtime that no one else makes," McDonogh coach Steve Nichols said.

One was a tip save over the crossbar on a header by John Ports; another was on a hard header by Mike Marchiano, McDonogh's outstanding center midfielder who played his first full game this season after recovering from a broken foot.

The goal against Fitzgerald, off his fingertips at the near post, was caused by a defensive breakdown that left Beckman unguarded at the 6-yard line as Marchiano sent a lofted serve into the box from the right side.

"We didn't keep our shape and when they served it back they had more numbers," Loyola coach Kyle Swords said. "We were actually lucky to get a draw with the pressure they put on us at the end of the game. This has happened before. We have to learn from it."

McDonogh (12-4-1, 9-3-1) clinched third place in the playoffs that begin Nov. 4.

"This was the worst 80 minutes we've played all season," Nichols said. "We gave them a goal and then had to fight like dogs to come back. We stood around, were tentative, and didn't win head balls or 50/50s. But the kids did show a lot of heart after we finally figured out how to play on this field."

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