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Agbaadem wins mental game, pushing Penn Wood through

LANSDOWNE >> Goodwill Agbaadem tightened his gloves and stood on the goal line in the lengthening shadows of Ardmore Avenue Elementary School Tuesday afternoon.

As Dan McFarland backpedaled, lining up his penalty kick in the fourth round of the shootout, Agbaadem didn’t know for sure if the Downingtown East defender would go left or right, high or low. But the Penn Wood goalkeeper knew for certain that McFarland’s mind would be as focused on the goalie’s reaction as on his own delivery.

“After all those saves,” the junior goalie said, “I was in their heads.”

Agbaadem batted away McFarland’s shot — just as he did Alex Dove’s spot kick in the first overtime period — as No. 15 Penn Wood advanced past the No. 18 Cougars, 4-2 on penalty kicks, in the opening round of the District 1 4A boys soccer tournament.

Penn Wood goalie Goodwill Agbaadem was magical in overtime and during the penalty kick shootout, enabling the Patriots to advance to the second round of the District 1 Class 4A playoffs. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

Penn Wood goalie Goodwill Agbaadem was magical in overtime and during the penalty kick shootout, enabling the Patriots to advance to the second round of the District 1 Class 4A playoffs. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

The result, following a 1-1 draw through two overtimes, gave the Patriots’ their second playoff win in program history. The other came in 2007, in the program’s first home playoff game.

This time, Agbaadem played the starring role.

It started in the dying moments of regulation when he instinctively reached up to corral a shot by Yousif Taki, a calm save despite the Downingtown forward being in all alone with a chance to end the game on his boot, but his finish was lacking.

Agbaadem was forced into action 12 minutes into the first extra session when a handball was called on the Penn Wood line after a chaotic scramble in the box. Dove stepped to the spot and tried to beat Agbaadem right down the middle, but the keeper didn’t guess, waited out the shooter and kicked out to his left leg as he dove right, delivering a devastating blow to the Cougars’ psyche.

“I was focused, because this is our last chance,” Agbaadem said. “I was like, I’ve got to do this for my team, I’ve got to step up for my team. I’ve got to do this, and I did it.”

“When I see him make that PK stop, I was like, we’ve got a chance of winning the game,” said defender Frankie Knuckles, who played a huge role in covering ground on the backline and delivered a composed shootout penalty. “So it makes my other teammates confident in the game, makes them just have enough energy.”

Knuckles delivered those quotes from a folding chair at midfield, with his right thumb and right wrist heavily taped, souvenirs from a punishing encounter. Penn Wood (15-4) was forced to chase the game from the opening minutes, allowing a cheap opening goal in the fourth minute when AJ Carreiro hit a looping side volley of a bouncing Mitch Gill throw-in that eluded the Pats’ defense.

But until Taki’s squandered look in the 80th, they produced little to trouble Agbaadem, who made half of his eight saves from the 79th minute on. The psychological recovery for the Cougars (9-6-4) was perhaps the toughest to get over after Dove was denied.

“We had other chances,” captain Dave Reimold said of his conversation with Gove after the miss.

Penn Wood had the better of play for the balance of the first half and early in the second. They finally cashed in when James Nmah cleaned up a rebound on a corner kick in the 54th. Habib Toure delivered a forceful header of Eric Kamara’s service that was repelled off the line by East’s Matt Kehr, but Nmah was quickest to the rebound and slotted it home.

James Nmah and older brother Andrew did most of the creating for Penn Wood, as they have all year, peppering goalie Dan Good with 14 shots, a couple of which were unsteadily caught on the bumpy pitch.

Penn Wood defenders Eric Kamara, left, and Abdulia Barrie, right, surround Downingtown East's Dave Reimold. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

Penn Wood defenders Eric Kamara, left, and Abdulia Barrie, right, surround Downingtown East’s Dave Reimold. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

The balance shifted toward the Cougars in extra time, but the advantage in penalty kicks swung toward a much more confident Penn Wood side. Just ask Andrew Nmah.

“When I step to the spot, I know I’m going to make that shot,” he said. “And I believe in my team that they’re going to follow up and do the same thing. I trust and I believe in my goalie and I know he’s going to make that save.”

Nmah took care of business, with Penn Wood shooting first, though Good got a finger to it. Gill followed and, perhaps with an eye toward Agbaadem’s outsized presence, side-footed an effort flush off the crossbar. James Nmah and Reimold scored in succession, as did Carlos D’Anjollel (with Good again guessing correctly) and Bobby Weiler to put Penn Wood up 3-2 after three rounds.

Knuckles followed. And then Agbaadem bided his time, recording Weiler’s attempt down the middle, like Gove’s. And when Agbaadem guessed right, by not guessing on McFarland, he set off waves of celebration among the home fans.

“That was amazing,” Knuckles said. “When he saved that penalty, we realized that we did good on the field. We can’t believe that we played over 100 minutes, we put everything on the field and that’s what we got.”

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