WESTTOWN – Tuesday was a dream outing, of sorts, for Downingtown East defender Zack Stata. The senior not only contributed heavily at the back end of a key Ches-Mont league soccer shutout over West Chester Rustin, but he scored the game’s lone goal.
A self-described “6-foot-3 on a good day,” Stata used his height to get his head on a corner kick early in the second half, and his goal was all that the Cougars needed as they went on to win it, 1-0. East improves to 4-2 (5-3 overall) and knocks the Golden Knights from a three-way tie for second place in the league standings.
“If you have a guy who can go up and get the ball, it’s a threat,” said Cougars’ head coach Tom Creighton.
“Set pieces are how goals are scored in high school soccer. We get a good amount of them, but we don’t finish them often enough.”
With the stretch-run of the regular season about to commence, Stata converted a big one, and afterwards he spoke like a player who is listening to his coach.
“Coach has told us a million times over the past four years that I’ve been here that resets score goals in high school soccer,” he said.
“Corner kicks have kind of been my thing. I get excited when we get them. I try to stand far-post, time-it and get up there and use my head.”
Even though the final margin was razor-thin, Rustin head coach Ryan Castle complained that his team was listless, lethargic, sluggish – chose your adjective. The Knights’ fall to 4-2 (4-4-1 overall).
“It’s a game we will look back on with frustration,” Castle said.
“It was just one of those instances where all 11 guys were having one of their poorer performances of the season, all on the same day. It’s tough to compete when that happens.”
Downingtown East wound up doubling Rustin in shots on goal, but the clash was scoreless through the first half and on into the second. Just before Stata finally broke through, the Cougars failed to convert a prime two-on-one opportunity when A.J. Carreiro’s diagonal pass to teammate Joey Martini went from post to post. But Martini got to the ball a fraction of a second late.
A moment later, Carreiro had an uncontested shot from a tough angle that was stopped by Rustin keeper Andrew DiStefano, but East kept up the pressure and broke the scoring drought off a corner kick by sophomore Chris Comber.
“Chris hit one earlier in pretty much the same spot, but I didn’t get to it that time,” Stata explained. “I knew if I got there at the right time, I could get a head on it.
“We had to come out in that second half and take their heart out with an early goal, and we did that.”
There was still over 36 minutes on the clock, but the Knights failed to get anything past East goalie Dan Good.
“I love shutouts and we’ve gotten a few this season,” Stata said. “We’ve had some trouble putting the ball in the back of the net, so we rely on our defense, but we know our offense in coming soon.”
Creighton liked what he saw on defense, but had concerns at the other end of the field.
“We played an opponent that has some talented boys out there,” he said. “We held it down in the back and created some great opportunities in the attack. If we would have taken advantage of those opportunities a little more, we would have put more (goals) in than one.
“I think we are extremely dangerous. We are not giving up many goals. If we take advantage of our opportunities, we will be beating teams 3-0 and 4-0.”
The frustration level, however, is much more acute for Castle and Rustin. His team dropped an overtime decision to Lower Merion last weekend, and allowed the hangover to carry over.
“This had the potential to be a let-down game,” Castle said. “Unfortunately, we allowed the circumstances – the heat, a day game, whatever – to affect us and we were mentally weak. We just didn’t compete, in all phases of the game – defensively, attacking, 50-50 balls.
“We talked about the importance of letting go of the loss to Lower Merion. This is a season-defining week, and now we have to figure out Unionville on Thursday and Garnet Valley on Friday.”
Downingtown East 1, West Chester Rustin 0
Downingtown East 0 1 — 1
W.C. Rustin 0 0 — 0
Downingtown goal: Stata.
Goalie saves: Good (DE) 4; DiStefano (WCR) 7.