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Steinbach’s brace leads La Salle past Lansdale Catholic

La Salle’s Derek Hammel reaches to steal the ball from Lansdale Catholic’s Steve Esterle during their game on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
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LANSDALE >> Every quality soccer team needs a guy like David Steinbach.

The La Salle senior midfielder will do any job asked of him, even the unglamorous ones. Last season, Steinbach was one of the grinders in the middle of the pitch for the Explorers behind some talented attacking players.

With a lot of new faces in the mix this year, the Explorers are looking for Steinbach to give them even more. He did his part on Friday, scoring both goals as La Salle outlasted Lansdale Catholic 2-1.

“All our coaches said we had the play the ball a lot faster and I thought the first 10 minutes of that second half, we really set the tempo,” Steinbach said. “We were one-two touch all the way up the field and that eventually resulted in them getting a little frustrated, a little tired. We got a foul and ended up with a first goal, got a fortunate penalty kick and that was the game.”

La Salle’s midfield has a different look this year with Gio Randazzo and Jacob Mittman graduated and Sean McCallum sidelined by injury, but Steinbach and senior Edward Loftus have provided a solid central tandem so far for coach Tom McCaffery.

“In his earlier years he was a bit of a bull in a china shop,” McCaffery said of the physical midfielder. “As he’s gotten more experience, he’s been able to balance that toughness with technical skill and a good sense for the game.”

Lansdale Catholic played a terrific defensive game all match, committed and resolute in its play along the back. Crusaders coach Bill James said going up against a technical team like La Salle, he didn’t want his players to get caught in too many one-v-one situations and instead, LC put numbers behind the ball.

The Crusaders held La Salle scoreless in the first half and despite not getting too many offensive chances, LC felt good about its play at the break.

La Salle is going to keep coming at teams and about 15 minutes into the second half, the Explorers drew a foul about 40 yards out on the left flank. It was a decent distance, but with senior center back Nicholas Hammel’s cannon leg, it was in range for the Explorers.

“He’s always looking for me or (Chris) Metzler,” Steinbach said. “I think on that one, Metz was on the other side, so I knew I just had to try fight for my space and wait for the ball.”

La Salle’s Edward Loftus battles Lansdale Catholic’s Evan Senour for a loose ball during their game on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Hammel’s ball found Steinbach in a quality spot inside the six-yard box. There was a lot of contact, with the LC bench pleading for a foul, but Steinbach was able to bury the chance.

“I told the guys, I’m not going to coach a perfect game, they’re not going to play a perfect game and no referee is going to call a perfect game,” James said. “It’s a tough job. It was an unfortunate break for us, but it seemed to light a bit of a fire in us too and we responded with a lot of pressure.”

With about 10 minutes left, La Salle drew a foul in the box, giving the Explorers a penalty kick. Steinbach stepped up and calmly put the chance away for a 2-0 lead.

CIRCLED GAME

Both sides had Friday’s match circled.

For La Salle, which has won the last two Philadelphia Catholic League titles, the Crusaders have been a persistent roadblock. The Explorers didn’t lose a regular season game the last two seasons, but they’ve only managed two draws against the Crusdaers.

With some of the La Salle veterans expressing it on the pitch Friday, the Explorers were clearly looking to buck that trend. Still, they had to up their commitment to finishing the effort after a scoreless first half.

“It was that one word, commitment,” McCaffery said. “The seniors on this team had never beaten LC, and that’s a credit to their coaching staff and all the guys who come through their program. We challenged them at halftime and said if they wanted to get a result, they had to be willing to get in and do the dirty work.”

Lansdale Catholic goalie Kellan Ward dives to block a shot during the Crusaders’ game against La Salle on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LC also wanted to get more than a draw out of the game, especially after managing just one point out of their PCL opener against Archbishop Carroll. While the Crusaders only had one shot on goal in the first half, they were able to work the ball around the field pretty well.

Getting the final ball in was a bit of a challenge for LC, with the Explorers’ defense able to close down when needed.

“They were trying to work us out wide and stretch the defense then get the ball up to Matt McDonald, which makes sense because he’s their best attacking player,” Steinbach said.

McCaffery said his defense has been playing well early in the season despite losing four of five players from last year’s unit including goalkeeper and PCL MVP Brett Werner. Hammel is the returner, while keeper Owen Ranck got some minutes throughout last year and on Friday, Derek Hammel, Jack Kennedy and Sean McCartney did well.

LC, which is now 0-2-1 on the season, feels like it’s close. The Crusaders are just looking for that final consistent effort.

McDonald was able to pull a late goal back for LC when he followed up a teammate’s shot off the crossbar and buried the second chance opportunity.

“We didn’t get a win but I thought we played well in our first game against Penn Charter but then we came out flat in our next game against Carroll,” James said. “Today, we picked up our level offensively in the second half. At this point, it’s all about consistency. We have the guys to do it.”

Lansdale Catholic’s Sean Cole dribbles upfield during the Crusaders’ game against La Salle on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

BROTHER V BROTHER

Friday’s match pitted a pair of brothers together in LC junior Sean Cole against La Salle freshman Joseph Cole in their first high school meeting.

Sean Cole started as a central midfielder for LC while Joseph didn’t get into the match for the Explorers. There’s always a chance the teams could meet in the PCL playoffs and if not, there’s always next year.

DOWNPOUR

Most of the second half was played in a total downpour that Steinbach called some of the worst conditions he’s played in. The senior said the visibility on the pitch went down and as the grass field was drenched, the ball started to stick in puddles across the surface.

“There’s nothing you can tell them,” James said. “You could see the ball sticking and the water kicking up anytime someone made contact with it. It’s tough but at the same time it’s fun, it’s just one of those experiences you have come along from time to time.”

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