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Lansdale Catholic stands firm, earns draw with La Salle

SPRINGFIELD >> Lansdale Catholic boys soccer knew it was time to make a stand.

The Crusaders are hanging on the precipice of the Philadelphia Catholic League playoff picture and needed a statement result with the final week of the regular season coming up. It wasn’t a win, but LC did nearly as well by walking onto La Salle’s home turf and playing the top team in the PCL to a draw Friday afternoon.

A well-taken goal by Chirs Edling and a robust defensive performance frustrated and held the Explorers in check in a 1-1 draw at Glasner Field.

“We knew we had to find a point where we cemented ourselves and said enough is enough and start playing as a team,” LC coach Bill James said. “They believed in each other today. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but they started believing and now we move on from here. I’m very pleased with the result.”

LC knew it was going to have to commit itself to facing a lot of pressure and a lot of shots in order to try and pick up the points on the road. That meant cramming bodies behind the ball anytime La Salle had possession, which given the way the Explorers play, was a lot.

It’s a risk-reward style of soccer, but the Crusaders were on the reward end Friday thanks to a strong showing from keeper Joe Duffy’s 10 saves and countless tackles, covers and blocks from the back line, especially center defenders Dan White and Dom Melchiorre.

Edling was part of the effort in the middle of the park, where LC wanted to make it as tough as possible for La Salle to get forward and connect.

“We wanted to let them come from the outside,” Edling said. “We wanted to let them come at us, try not to let any crosses in and just play good defense.”

The Explorers out-shot LC 11-4 in shots on goal, but overwhelmingly eclipsed them in total shots. Again, LC was willing to concede the pressure and shots so long as there were three or four guys between the guy on the ball and Duffy.

La Salle had success when it switched field, but the team’s forwards kept falling victim to trying to take on those two or three defenders in the box.

“It took us a while to recognize that the swing pass was on and if you switched the point of attack, it could lead to some good things,” La Salle coach Tom McCaffrey said. “Some individual decision-making was rough, I guess they saw something they thought was there. LC did a really good job of closing it off and winning individual battles. That’s what it came down to, these guys did a good job of winning their battles and sticking it out, and it was just a dog fight, which you can expect every time you play a game in this league.”

Neither team could find a score in the first half, with La Salle owning a 5-0 edge in shots on goal. The Explorers broke through early in the second half thanks to the deep throw-in prowess of senior defender Cole Hammel.

Hammel rifled a throw into the box, where Christian Calabretta flicked a header down into the path of Chris Lenge, who put it home on a sliding shot.

The score held until LC got a free kick with about 15 minutes left. Matt McDonald sent a secondary service in to the far post, where Edling got free of his mark and crunched a header past keeper Brett Werner.

“I was told to go up top and put one in,” Edling said. “Matt put in the ball, I made a run and it went in. It just boosted our morale, kept us in the game and let us finish out the rest.”

As the teams returned after the first overtime, the Crusaders had a simple message to each other.

“We didn’t want to come this far and let it all go,” Edling said. “We had to give it our all.”

The Explorers, who play a nonleague game Saturday morning at Council Rock North, lost Hammel to a scary injury late in the second overtime. Hammel went down into a tackle and immediately grabbed his lower left leg.

La Salle remains atop the table with a now pivotal PCL game looming Monday night at Father Judge.

“It’s all about keeping perspective, we’re at the top of the table, it’s all about the points and making sure we’re taking care of business,” McCaffrey said. “A lot of guys looked like we lost today and they didn’t. It’s perspective, I told them you made sure we got a point out of it.”

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