UPPER DARBY — The process is nothing new for the Radnor boys soccer team.
For 80-some minutes Tuesday afternoon, the Raiders thoroughly controlled play against Upper Darby, hemming the Royals into their end and probing for a breakthrough.
Following a scoreless regulation spent searching in vain for that final pass, that game-changing incisive forward run, it took a fortuitous bounce, a seeing-eye shot and a little individual initiative to finally tip the scales.
After failing to convert on the Raiders’ 11th corner kick of the day, Sasha Abadi flicked a ball back into the danger area to find defender Drew Ryan.
Ryan’s effort on net wasn’t the prettiest or most authoritative or most threatening-looking of the afternoon. But it took the right hop off Upper Darby’s rough surface in the sixth minute of overtime to stand as the only tally in Radnor’s 1-0 Central League win.
With so many chances created by Radnor’s persistent pressure having gone by the wayside, Ryan’s objective after coming forward to be an aerial target on the initial corner was simply to create a little chaos. On an afternoon when little else in the way of orchestrated moves had come to fruition, why not try to make something happen?
“We definitely need to step up, juniors and sophomores, and create crosses and opportunities in the box,” Ryan said. “We’re not going to have that kid that beats five guys to score a goal. That’s how we’re going to score, especially off set pieces.”
“You just need someone to come up big, a playmaker,” Abadi said. “We got a lot of shots off. Field conditions weren’t that great, but we kept working at it and we got it eventually.”
The dilemma is familiar for Radnor (4-2, 2-0). Even on last year’s District One playoff squad, the goal-scoring burden was shouldered by committee. The search for a consistent finisher remains a work in process this season, especially with the absence of Alex Egg-Krings Tuesday.
So the Raiders require contributors like Ryan, a central defender, to step up. Or they need a contribution from someone like Abadi, a defender last season who floated all over the field Tuesday — from holding midfielder to fullback to attacking midfielder late on when coach Joe Caruolo felt his side was particularly in need of a spark.
“You’ve just got to have the motivation to keep going, keep attacking,” Abadi said. “You can’t let it get to you. You have to keep forcing your way in there, and finally we got the chance after a while.”
The opportunities were plentiful, including 11 corner kicks, a handful of dangerous free kicks and a massive edge in possession, most of it in the Upper Darby half.
Radnor troubled goalkeeper John Thornton to make nine saves, including one on a Ryan header just seconds into overtime that he parried around the post. It was one of the best chances on the day, joining a rising volley by Miles Maesaka just before halftime that Thornton plucked out of the air and a dipping shot by James Cellucci in the 68th minute that Thornton got the faintest of fingertips to, directing it wide of the post.
Thornton back-stopped a stellar defensive effort by the Royals, who ultimately didn’t get a result to show for it. The center back pairing of JV callup Mamadou Diarra and Vince Baselice held firm most of the game, putting out fire after fire with the help of central midfielders Ian Matherson and Jallah Acqui.
“We defended great,” Matherson said. “We just kept on stopping, kept on stopping. We just didn’t get any chances in their end. Really that was our problem. But I think we defended great except for that one corner. And we have to stop giving up corners.
“I mean, if you have 11 corners, you’re going to score on one.”
Considering that the defense was severely hit by graduation last year, necessitating a complete rebuild, the progress is rapid, epitomized by Diarra’s standout performance.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’m learning from the older guys, the seniors. They’re helping me a lot. It was a really good defensive effort. … Last play of the game, we messed up. That’s it.”
Also in the Central League:
Penncrest 5, Garnet Valley 0: Drew Hanna scored twice and Sam Brown added three assists to lead the Lions (4-0, 2-0).
Zach Groses, Ricky Vogler and Will Dean rounded out the scoring, while Liam Thomas made seven saves in posting the shutout.
Lower Merion 2, Haverford 1: Evan Boyce scored in the second half off a feed from Willie Fineberg, but it wasn’t enough for the Fords.
Marple Newtown 2, Harriton 0: Hunter Dyson and George Lambritsios scored on either side of halftime to lead the Tigers. Josh Gotlib made four saves in the shutout for Marple (3-2, 2-0).