HORSHAM >> The Hatboro-Horsham boys soccer team wasn’t able to give coach Kyle McGrath outright dibs on the Suburban One League American for his birthday, but they got him the next best thing.
The Hatters, playing a man down for nearly 40 minutes, managed to gut out a 1-1 tie with Wissahickon under the lights Tuesday night, moving the team into a share of first place with Upper Dublin. A match that started like it was shot out of a cannon slowed into a physical sometimes messy stalemate.
When the final whistle sounded, the Hatters were OK with what they got out of it.
“The effort and just the ability to not allow them to score while down a man for 40 minutes, I’m just super-proud of their effort and the way they were able to maintain their composure,” McGrath said.
Wissahickon on the other hand, was not too pleased with the outcome. Yes, it extended the Trojans’ unbeaten run to eight games, but the two points left on the pitch loomed large. Wiss scored on its second shot of the game, but was then shut out for nearly 96 minutes.
After playing Upper Dublin to a draw to end last week, Wiss coach Stuart Malcolm had a long postgame talk with his players. The general message was one of missed opportunities.
“This was a missed opportunity, you play 40 minutes a man up, their keeper made a few outstanding saves and I felt the same on Friday,” Malcolm said. “On Friday, we created a lot of good opportunities, we did the same thing again tonight but against these teams, if you get four or five good opportunities, you’re doing well. We had four or five good opportunities and if you’re not going to finish those, it becomes a missed opportunity.”
Wiss (9-3-2, 7-2-2 conference) got a dream start with Eddie Fortescue’s cannon-armed throw in setting things up. The initial throw led to a shot by Michael Steitz that was saved by HH keeper Zack Kim, but Fortescue was right there on the near post to tap it in with 36:15 left in the first half.
Kim had done all he could on the play, but letting in an early goal only made the junior determined not to do it again. The Hatters’ keeper was fantastic on Tuesday, making eight saves with three exceptional stops of otherwise sure goals.
“I think it’s really just about talking to my back four and Colin (Bateman), they do most of the work and if they slip up, I’m just there to back them up,” Kim said. “We just needed to follow our marks. We took care of it the last 80 minutes, so it worked out. I’m always trying to figure out who has who, then I’m tracking the ball, deciding whether I’m staying in or coming out and if I’m going to have a defender clear it out.”
Despite at one point telling one of his defenders to “go away,” meaning to clear the ball, Kim gets along very well with his back line. His voice booms across the field, commanding the defense and holding midfielder Colin Bateman, something Kim has worked on extensively since his freshman season.
Kim made a diving stop of David Goldstein’s header with 22 minutes left in the first half, then had another parallel save of Liam Weiss in the first half. After being the backup keeper the last two years, Kim has seized the job this fall.
“He’s really grown into the role, he’s the reason why we get out of here with a point tonight,” McGrath said.
“McGrath’s always taught me to talk more and I’ve gotten used to it and I’m more comfortable with it,” Kim added.
The Hatters (11-2-2, 8-2-1) responded almost immediately. Bateman sent a gorgeous, booming ball out of the back that found its way right to the foot of Nick Hatzenbeller just as the forward broke through the Wiss back line. Hatzenbeller touched the ball around keeper Jun Yuh then delivered a beautiful strike into the net with 34:25 left in the half.
What looked like a high-paced offensive duel slowed down and turned very physical after halftime. With 17:02 left in the second half, Hatters midfielder JD Mallinger was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Yuh after the keeper had left the 18-yard box chasing a 50/50 ball.
McGrath conceded he felt Wissahickon was the better team in the first half, but thought his guys had the better of play up until the red card.
“We changed formations pretty quickly and it was a matter of them competing and winning battles they had to win when we were down a man,” McGrath said. “I thought Brad Bornstein came in and did well for us in the center midfield, so we’re confident he can play well. Obviously, JD has been great for us all year, so replacing him is hard but I think we have guys who can step up and give us an 80-minute performance.”
The Hatters play Plymouth Whitemarsh, the team that just beat Upper Dublin, on Thursday, so the path doesn’t get easier. Hatboro-Horsham also faces Upper Dublin next week.
Both teams are also battling for district playoff seeding. The Hatters entered play on Tuesday as the No. 7 team in the District 1-4A rankings, with the top eight earning first-round byes. Wissahickon was the No. 9 team, again making the draw a missed chance.
“We ended up having to play more of what their game was, and that’s the frustrating part with us being 10 against 11 men on the field, if we have the ball, we were going to be better but if you’re not going to have the ball because you’re not going to challenge them in the air, then we’ll struggle to do what it is we’re good at,” Malcolm said. “I credited and pointed out to all the defenders that they’ve done what their job is. They’ve kept (Upper) Dublin to one goal, they kept Hatboro to one goal. For the forwards and midfield players, they’ve created chances, that’s what you want as a coach but I told them they have to finish those chances.”
HATBORO-HORSHAM 1, WISSAHICKON 1
HATBORO-HORSHAM 1 0 0 0 – 1
WISSAHICKON 1 0 0 0 – 1
Goals: HH – Nick Hatzenbeller; W – Eddie Fortescue. Saves: HH – Zack Kim 8, W – Jun Yuh 4.