LANSDALE >> Man of the Match honors were an easy pick for Lansdale Catholic on Monday.
On a blazing hot afternoon, under a barrage of pressure, senior goalkeeper Joe Duffy bailed his team out over and over again. Sure, he caught a couple of breaks but when he was challenged, Duffy was up to the task.
Duffy made 10 saves, including a stone-walling of a first half penalty kick, as he back-stopped the Crusaders to a hard-fought and much-needed 2-1 win over Methacton in a nonleague game.
“Our team was a little sloppy in the back but overall, we played well,” Duffy said. “I just had to come up big today.”
Bill James, LC’s first-year head coach, knew goalkeeper was one of the top positions he had to fill when he took over the post. With LC graduating Jack Kane, it left a pretty sizable all-league void in the back of the formation.
His solution was to turn to Duffy. The twist is, Duffy expected to spend his senior season as a field player and hadn’t played keeper in about five years. Expectedly, the senior wasn’t overly keen on the idea, but he shook off enough of the rust and accepted the challenge.
Monday, he turned in his best performance of the season, especially in the second half.
“It was a game he absolutely needed and we needed, but for him to come out and play the way he did I think can propel us forward,” James said. “We gave him Man of the Match on the sideline and he really bailed his teammates out a number of times. Methacton had a number of chances I’m sure they want back, but it wasn’t on them, it was just the goalie making some outstanding saves.”
Matt McDonald scored both goals for LC, continuing his own growth into a go-to goal scorer up top. With 18 minutes gone in the first half, McDonald pounced on a back pass from a Methacton defender, poaching the ball and slicing behind the defense for a composed finish.
The junior had another shot saved early in the second half, but he came through for his teammates in the 73rd minute when he latched on to a ball over the top and again calmly placed a shot home.
Joe Duffy saves a PK pic.twitter.com/opKz45DR8y
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) September 25, 2017
“He is a goal-scorer, he just has to convince himself of that sometimes,” James said. “He’s got talent to really take people on and at times, he’ll try to get rid of the ball too soon and on a goal like that, you see the composure, he takes the ball down and gets a great rip.”
For Methacton, Monday’s game continued a recent and frustrating trend of generating plenty of chances and not putting them away. The Warriors’ lone goal, scored in the 60th minute by Chris Meehan, was terrific. Midfielder TJ Taylor, who terrorized LC all second half, played in Meehan on a perfectly-weighted ball, with Meehan able to slot it around a charging Duffy.
The sequence that best summed-up Methacton’s day however, came in the 65th minute. A well-hit free kick was headed on by Logan Rambo, only for it rattle the crossbar. LC couldn’t clear the ball and Vince Delisi ripped in a rebound that rang off the post.
“It’s like the goal is not big enough,” Methacton coach Dave Stevenson said. “There’s a little frustration level here, so we need to work through that and see what we can do to get it back on track.
“Those chances that don’t quite make it, they sting a little bit and then we follow it with a mishap and we’re down again.”
Duffy’s game-changing moment came in the 21st minute after a Methacton corner kick led to a scramble and an LC player fouling a Warrior in the box.
Rambo stepped up to the spot, driving it low and to his right. Duffy went to his left, diving to the ground and smothering the shot.
“I always listen to my coach and at practice every day, he tells me to pick a side and just go that way,” Duffy said. “I was right and I managed to save it. It brings excitement and a positive energy.”
Duffy said as the game went on, he had to constantly make sure which players were marked and keep himself aware of where the ball was on the pitch. He wasn’t rattled by giving up a goal, saying it felt inevitable with the amount of pressure Methacton was bringing.
The senior made two outstanding saves on Taylor in the second half, first in the 52nd minute on a point-blank shot at the near post and the second a diving parry after Taylor unleashed a wicked hit from the edge of the box.
He also made a play that didn’t go down as a save, but set the tone. In the first half, a Methacton service curled into the box, where Duffy went up and knocked it away, taking a hit from an attacking player and drawing a foul.
“Confidence is big,” Duffy said. “If I know I can for it, I’m going to go for it. There’s no 50/50, you just go. Jack was a big influence on us last year and I just saw how confident he was.”
LC has two PCL games on the docket this week, hosting Cardinal O’Hara on Tuesday and Conwell-Egan on Friday. The Crusaders know they need wins in both of those games, which is why Monday’s result was so crucial.
“I’m just excited for the guys,” James said. “I hope they feed off the positivity and let it carry us into Tuesday and Friday. It’d be nice to be able to put a good week together.”
LANSDALE CATHOLIC 2, METHACTON 1
LANSDALE CATHOLIC 1 1 – 2
METHACTON 0 1 – 1
Goals: LC – Matt McDonald 2; M – Chris Meehan (TJ Taylor). Shots: LC – 5, M – 13. Saves: LC – Joe Duffy 10; M – Mason LeSage 3.