RIDLEY >> It’s not difficult to pick out Sam Brown on the soccer field, not just because he’s rarely far from the ball. There’s also what’s on the head — think a darker-hued version of wild-haired international star of the past Carlos Valderrama — that helps the Penncrest forward stand out from the crowd.
Younger brother Max, thanks in part to a new haircut, is slightly more inconspicuous. But the sophomore is just as instrumental to the Lions’ early success. That was evident Thursday in a comprehensive 4-0 Central League win over Ridley, one where the two pieces of the puzzle named “Brown” fit together nicely.
Sam Brown scored twice, one on a penalty kick. Max Brown pulled the strings from deep in midfield, his incisive service and defense-softening shots from distance, though errant, providing forwards with lanes to run through.
It would be convenient to draw parallels between their games and choice of hair styles, Sam sporting the ostentatious style of someone who relishes taking on defenders one-v-one; Max the more conservative, stay-at-home midfielder.
For as well as their framed manes complement, it’s tempting to think they arose by design playing alongside each other.
But it’s a tactical coincidence that the Browns gravitated toward different areas of the pitch. (And, for the record, the hair is just an attempt by Max, a sophomore, to “look a little different” than his corkscrew-coiffed brother).
“I guess we play well together because I like to play more holding and pick out passes, and Sam likes to go at people and he’s a finisher, too,” Max said. “It’s a pretty good combo.”
Penncrest’s early season success would concur. Max Brown played the over-the-top ball that led to the first goal, when Ridley goalie Zach Ritz pawed away a shot by Sam Brown, but Nate Rodgers was first to swoop to the rebound deposit it into the net for Penncrest (4-2, 2-1).
Sam Brown on a PK. Christian Evans drew it in the box. 3-0 Penncrest. pic.twitter.com/uaFzP8OvoG
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 15, 2016
Sam Brown supplied the next two markers — first weaving through several defenders, losing the ball, recovering it and burying a strong low shot in the 33rd minute, then stepping to the spot after Christian Evans was felled in the box to nonchalantly power home a penalty in the 52nd.
With that lead in hand, the brothers turned to what they do best: Dictating the game as a central midfield pairing for the first 20-some minutes of the second half. With Evans and Colby Schnyder, who scored the fourth goal, bombing forward at will on the wings, the Browns dropped to form a wall that reinforced the Lions’ wide edge in possession, alternating who jumped into attack to maintain team shape and balance.
“I just think we have good chemistry together,” said Sam, a Loyola Maryland commit. “And if one goes, then the other one knows to stop and come back and track back, especially when we have a lead.”
It’s the second straight game in which Ridley has fallen behind 2-0 at halftime. Tuesday against Radnor, a game that featured two PKs surrendered, the Green Raiders shut off after the break and capitulated seven goals.
Thursday, at least, things didn’t devolve to that level. Part of the reason was Ritz, who made nine saves, including a pair of significant denials on point-blank chances inside the box.
Ridley’s chances were few and far between. Meese Tobey had a pair of shots blocked in dangerous positions as the seconds ran down on the first half, with Max Brown and Freddie Potts providing interventions. Outside of that, chances were hard to come by for a team that features just two seniors and is trying to navigate significant growing pains.
“Everyone’s young,” senior midfielder Nick Boexckx said. “Everyone’s not used to varsity, the Central League. Everyone in the Central League is so good, and they’re not used to it. … Everyone’s got to communicate and pick each other up.”
The Green Raiders didn’t record a shot on goal, with Penncrest goalie Pat Hughes hardly touching the ball. One instance preceded Schnyder’s goal, when Hughes charged out to cover a long ball into the box, then launched a punt that bounced over a defender and allowed Schnyder space to bury a shot inside the post.
Great save by Ridley’s Zach Ritz off a Penncrest corner. pic.twitter.com/oaWbwQdF82
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 15, 2016
Also in the Central League:
Garnet Valley 2, Harriton 0 >> Matt Moore notched the game-winner off a Matt Marino feed with 17 minutes to play, and Max Marini scored a minute later as the Jags, sponsored by M&Ms apparently, stayed unbeaten in the Central League.
Tyler Tracy protected the shutout with two saves for GV (5-1, 3-0).
Haverford 1, Upper Darby 0 >> Sean Cannon set up Josh Cunningham for the winning goal as the Fords picked up a win.
Conestoga 2, Radnor 0 >> Ben Toomey made two saves for Radnor, but he was beaten in the first half by Nick Jennings and Mason Miller as the Pioneers won.
Lower Merion 1, Strath Haven 0 >> Dixon Damico made seven saves, but the Panthers fell in double-overtime.
In the Del Val League:
Interboro 1, Academy Park 0 >> Josh Little scored the overtime game-winner, and Brandon Welden made eight saves to keep the shutout for the Bucs.
Ismael Americain made eight saves for Academy Park in the setback.
Chichester 10, Glen Mills 4 >> Harun Abdulliah and Matt Dwyer each recorded hat tricks in an offensive affair.
In nonleague action:
Penn Wood 8, Pottstown 0 >> James Nmah recorded a hat trick among six goal-scorers, and Goodwill Agbaadem posted a shutout with two saves as the Patriots (2-0) led 7-0 at halftime.