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Abington makes pieces fit against Upper Dublin

ABINGTON >> It’s been a juggling act early in the season for Abington boys’ soccer.

The defending SOL American champions didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle through the first week and change of the season, but they’re starting to find their way back. It’s a different squad in some aspects, but the idea is still the same and the Ghosts are ready to really get after it.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting shots on frame but the Ghosts remained unbeaten in the conference with a 2-0 win over visiting Upper Dublin on Tuesday.

“We moved the ball, we found Nevin (Baer) a lot and he’s the one that gets us going, we got outside and we were able to get a lot of shots,” Ghosts senior attacker Shawn McConnell said. “We were able to get a little high pressure on them and put them under. We have a lot of guys who can create their own shot or get a shot off from anywhere and the same people who can create shots can stop other people from getting shots so it all works out.”

Tuesday was a welcome change in that the Ghosts never trailed. In their prior three games, they’d given up the first tally each time but thanks to McConnell, they hit first and never looked back on Tuesday. The senior was in the right spot with 22 minutes left in the first half, punching in a rebound when Thomas Santangelo’s initial shot was saved.

Outside of the scoreline, the match wasn’t drastically one-sided. The Cardinals, who took their first loss of conference play, were right with the host side in terms of determination, work ethic and intensity. Upper Dublin’s woe on Tuesday was an inability to turn their chances into shots on goal.

“I feel like we were trying to hit that perfect shot into the corner when in reality you just have to put it on frame,” UD coach Andy Meehan said. “Good things happen when you do that.

“They have two phenomenal players in Nevin and Reese (Gibbs) and we knew that going but we were trying to go out with a balanced attack. We know we’re going to match anybody’s intensity and physicality, that’s how this team is built and where the leadership is taking us.”

The midfield was a good battle all game as UD’s trio of Nate Hillman, Chris Kenney and Sean Seabrook clashed with Baer, Andrew Kulynin and Gavin O’Neil. Last year, the Ghosts claimed two pretty one-sided wins over UD on their way to the conference title but Meehan was pleased with Tuesday’s effort outside the lack of goals.

Abington had 10 shots on target compared to just two for Upper Dublin but the Cardinals certainly tested Abington’s back five plenty with forward Jordan Kahny all over the attacking third. Ending the afternoon with a zero on the board was a needed result for the Ghosts’ defenders, who got right back Michael Burnstein back in the mix for the first time this fall.

“We work on it in practice, we try to move as a group and try to stay connected,” Gibbs, a center back, said. “It’s what we’re built on and defense wins you more games than offense usually. It’s what we try to do and I guess it worked today.”

Abington was at its best when it moved the ball fast. Baer is the type of player who can take the ball at and past defenders but Ghosts coach Randy Garber said they’re still working on how to make runs off the ball when the senior draws in traffic.

Losing Sean Touey, who scored nearly 30 goals last season, to graduation has left a void in the offense but the Ghost attackers are hungry.

The second goal came with 22:53 to play following a nice build-up and a bit of a fortunate bounce for Abington. Bryce Lexow made a good play to save the ball in along the touchline, played it back in to O’Neil, who made a quick pass to Baer who then sent it forward.

Baer’s service glanced off a UD defender and right to Antonio Ditri, who took a touch and put away a nice finish to double the lead.

“It came together quick, it’s what Garbs is always talking about, the quick ball-movement with no need to dribble,” McConnell said. “If you can move quick, get it up to your striker then get it wide and get a cross, it’s usually going to work out.”

Upper Dublin’s keepers Jordan Lewin-Skversky and Spencer Beidner both played well. It’s early in the conference slate, but the SOL American matches have mostly been close and it looks like several teams could factor into the title race.

“They still have those players that can change the game but I think the level of our league right now is fairly even,” Meehan said. “The teams at the bottom could surprise anyone at any moment.

It hasn’t changed anything for Abington, as McConnell and Gibbs both said they’re aiming to repeat as conference champions. Gibbs added the Ghosts are always looking to play the ball upfield and attack, seeking that next chance at every window they find.

Abington heads to Plymouth Whitemarsh on Thursday in another game that could have an early impact on the table.

“We’re putting pieces of the puzzle together,” Garber said. “Hopefully as the season goes on, we’ll get a little better. We have a challenge Thursday with PW because they have a very good team. We’re used to scoring a lot of goals, right now we’re not scoring a lot of goals so right now we’re just trying to fill in.”

ABINGTON 1 1 – 2

UPPER DUBLIN 0 0 – 0

Goals; A – Shawn McConnell (Thomas Santangelo), Anontio Ditri (Nevin Baer)

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