PHILADELPHIA >> La Salle senior midfielder Mike D’Angelo is no stranger to big goals and big moments.
Thursday night he had two really big goals in two really big moments as the Explorers bested a very good Northeast team 2-1 in the District 12-AAAA boys soccer final, held at Northeast.
“You see his ability when he hits it on a restart where he can wrap it in and he just finds a way on a head ball,” La Salle coach Tom McCaffrey said. “He’s scored some huge goals this year and we expect him to compete for every head ball.”
Northeast, the defending District 12 champion, brought a lot of pace and shiftiness to the field. The Vikings looked good when they were able to get the ball to the flanks and make long runs up the field.
It was a physical battle on both sides in the first half, with La Salle being on the receiving end of a few more of the whistled fouls.
“The Public League teams always have a lot of speed and we knew this team would have a lot of dribblers and we knew we could get countered, but we have a strong back four,” D’Angelo said.
One of those fouls was called when a Northeast player had both hands wrapped around Spencer Patton’s waist about 25 yards out. The call set up Mike D’Angelo for a free kick and the senior midfielder worked more of his wizardry.
Somehow, D’Angelo spotted his kick around a three-man wall, two guys on the post and Northeast’s big keeper Sebastian Gimeno with 22:43 left in the half.
“Once you see a lot of guys in the wall, you know the keeper’s vision is going to be obstructed,” D’Angelo said. “You put it over and hope he doesn’t see it until late and doesn’t have time to react to it.”
Northeast came back about two minutes later on one of those runs and it got a good rip at net. Brett Werner went down to make the first save but it caromed off his hands where late runner Jose Ferman pounced and hammered home to level the score.
In the second half, Northeast got to play with a strong wind at its back and that really got the Vikings going. Northeast put a lot of pressure on La Salle, but keeper Brett Werner was able to make enough plays to calm things down and let the back line adjust.
Up top, Northeast was doing a good job of keeping La Salle’s offense in check, preventing shots and getting clears when it needed to. Instead of getting frustrated, the Explorers kept pushing.
“We kept going at them,” midfielder JP Pluck said. “We needed to get more numbers up the field.”
La Salle got a corner kick with about 5:30 left and the service by Chris Metzler was a dart to the far post. There, D’Angelo got up and headed it in with 5:16 left for the winner.
“It was right at the back post,” D’Angelo said. “We stack some guys back there, win any 50/50 ball and hope it goes in. I just tried to head it toward the goal and see what happened.”
The win sends La Salle to states for the first time in the careers of any player currently on the roster. After winning the PCL title last weekend, they want to continue this run.
“It means more work but we’re happy to keep playing,” Pluck said. “We’ll keep doing our thing and hope it pays off.”