HORSHAM >> In a twist of fate, the Upper Dublin boys soccer team’s slow start Tuesday was due to playing too fast.
The Cardinals found themselves on their heels and trailing midway through the first half of a crucial game at Hatboro-Horsham. Then the ball got to the guys it needed to, they slowed things down and UD got back in the game.
Upper Dublin couldn’t hold a late lead but was fine with the 2-2 draw it earned in double overtime, keeping the Cardinals atop the SOL American table.
“We were battling really hard, we started out slow but pulled through,” UD forward Jerry Bardol said. “Everyone played really well.”
As far as last week of the season games go, this one was a gem. Upper Dublin came in as the No. 8 team in the latest District I power rankings while the Hatters were No. 10
The game’s early stages saw the Hatters take initiative, with Danny Bateman’s speed causing issues for the Cardinals in the back. Bateman had a header and a second shot, off a great buildup, saved in the opening minutes.
“The conference is still in our own hands so if we win on Thursday, we’re happy,” Cardinals coach Derek Priest said. “We started slow ironically because we were playing 100 miles an hour and never put our foot on the ball, we were constantly giving it away. Once we put a foot on the ball and tried to play a little bit of soccer, which is not always easy in these types of games, that made us more successful.”
Bateman’s older brother Colin was a force in the middle of the park, winning a heavy majority of his tackles and air balls. With Upper Dublin pinned back at first, it felt like the Hatters were on the cusp of cashing in.
So when sophomore Andrew Hurrell sent a through ball up to Danny Bateman, that chance materialized. Bateman got in alone but had a bad touch slow his progress, allowing Cards defenders to hustle back. Bateman wisely laid off the ball to Joe LaRouche, charging in on a late run and the senior calmly finished in the 16th minute.
“We knew what was at stake, they’re in a little better position than us for the league so the energy level was going to be high,” Hatters coach Kyle McGrath said. “We were unfortunate not to get more pressure in terms of shots on target but we got an early lead which was good.”
UD settled in after that and started getting forward at a better clip. The catalyst was the involvment of the team’s center midfielders, the guys best to be on the ball and slow the game down.
Bardol credited Josh Saitsky, Chris Tocchet and Colin Muth for settling the game. Priest added Tom Hiltwine off the bench as another guy who did exactly what was needed.
“I thought their center midfield did a really good job today against us neutralizing Colin Bateman and Nick Hatzenbeller,” McGrath said.”They’re solid all over the field and we knew that going into the year that they were going to be tough. It’s not the most satisfying to get two draws with them but also rewarding in the sense of if they’re the best team in the league, we showed we can play with them.”
Hiltwine sprayed a ball out to Max Adams on the left flank, which the Cardinals junior whipped back in with a great cross.
There to meet it at the far post was Bardol, who tapped in for a 28th minute equalizer.
“Max had a great cross and I was able to finish it,” Bardol said. “It really helped us out, we regained our focus and momentum in the game.”
UD took the lead in the 48th minute when Anthony Wisdo headed in a ball that had hit off Muth’s head on a long throw in. The Cardinals had several chances to put in another goal, but they were either sent over the goal or stopped by Hatters keeper Stephen Doney.
With a shade under three minutes left, the Hatters were awarded a free kick on the left side deep down the field. Up stepped Danny Harmon, who belted it into the net to tie the contest.
“I was thinking that I would just hit it as hard as I could to the back post,” Harmon said. “It was a matter of getting it on target and maybe we could get something or a rebound.”
Naturally, a couple heads dropped for Upper Dublin but some words for Wisdo, who left the game injured, got the energy restored. A win wasn’t imperative for the Cardinals, so they just didn’t want to make any dumb mistakes.
“We’re trying to score but at the end of the day, we just needed the tie to stay in front,” Bardol said. “It really helps us going forward. We know what playoffs are going to be like, battling hard against these good teams.”
Both keepers, Doney and UD’s Jason Stone, were solid, making six stops each. Stone had a big stop early that didn’t put his team deeper in a hole. Doney made an incredible save in the first overtime, going airborne and holding onto the ball after he was run into by an attacker and one of his own defenders.
Upper Dublin only has to win against Upper Moreland on Thursday to secure the American title while the Hatters would need a win and UD loss.
“We just have to make sure we don’t slip up,” Priest said.
The Hatters, while dejected not to win, can gain some value from the game as they prepare for a postseason appearance.
“We just want to keep the momentum going,” McGrath said. “We haven’t been in a position where we were in the talk for playoffs recently but to see the guys step up and play the way they did in this type of game was encouraging.”
Upper Dublin 2, Hatboro-Horsham 2
UPPER DUBLIN 1 1 0 0 – 2
HATBORO-HORSHAM 1 1 0 0 – 2
Goals: UD – Jerry Bardol (Max Adams) 28’, Anthony Wisdo (Colin Muth) 48’; HH – Joe LaRouche (Danny Bateman) 16’, Danny Harmon 78’. Shots: UD – 8, HH – 8. Corners: UD – 9, HH – 5. Saves: UD – Jason Stone 6, HH – Stephen Doney 6