Upper Merion’s Alan Castillo nets overtime winner against Plymouth-Whitemarsh

UPPER MERION >> The Upper Merion and Plymouth Whitemarsh boys soccer teams are incredibly evenly matched. Last month, the team played 100 minutes to a tie. Tuesday afternoon at Upper Merion Area High School, the teams were tied after 80 minutes of regulation.

Before the first 10-minute overtime sessions came to a close, Upper Merion separated itself.

Vikings freshman Trevor Looby found junior Alan Castillo streaking up the field. Castillo beat his defender and the goaltender and tapped the ball into the net, sending the Upper Merion bench onto the field and into a celebratory pile on top of Castillo with a 1-0 victory.

“When I saw Trevor cut back, I screamed at him and he just whipped it in there,” Castillo said. “I saw the keeper coming out, so I just dinked it (over the keeper) and just passed it in.”

“Alan is a junior but he’s a very good ‘one-v-one’ player,” Upper Merion coach Tom Dodds said. “He can break defenders down, he has some deceptive speed and he runs with the ball well. He can wrong-foot well and he’s very good on the ball.”

Looby’s pass to Castillo was a thing of beauty. The freshman threaded the needle through defenders and led Castillo perfectly into the offensive end.

“Looby’s a nice player,” Dodds added. “He relaxes well on the ball and makes good decisions. He’s going to be a good player, too.”

The game was Upper Merion’s sixth of the season to go into overtime.

“I think it has gotten us conditioned,” Castillo said of all the extra minutes. “Over time, if you keep doing it you’re going to get good at it. Once we hear ‘overtime’ — we got this now. We know what we have to do. That’s how it happens.”

The Colonials dominated possession for most of the game. They peppered Upper Merion goalie Ben Tirjan with shots, but the senior stopped each and every one — none bigger than an Austin Betterly header with 10 seconds left in regulation.

“The guys are working hard,” PW coach Devon Landgraff said. “They’ve set goals and they are working hard to achieve those goals. On paper, we’re doing it. We had 20-7 in shots. As a coach, I’m not unhappy with the opportunities we’re creating. That’s what is eating everybody up a little bit. They are frustrated because we just can’t seem to put it away when we have the opportunities.

“It’s frustrating. It’s a credit to (Upper Merion). They found a way to score.”

The Vikings offense was not able to get much going before the game-winner. They managed just one shot on goal in the first half and didn’t generate a legitimate scoring chance until halfway through the second half.

“In the beginning it did get frustrating,” Castillo said, “but once coach Dodds tells me, ‘keep composure, you’ll get it just keep working hard,’ same as my teammate Abdu (Bakillah) always tells me and we got it. Just have to keep composure and you’ll get it.”

Upper Merion entered the game 28th in power points for the District One playoff race.

“I think this win pushed us up a whole bunch,” Castillo said. “We just have to keep working hard and see if we can get up there.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh was ninth in power points and, since the latest standing came out, has tied Upper Moreland and lost to Upper Merion.

“I don’t think (this loss) takes us out of playoff contention,” Landgraff said, “but we have Wissahickon and Upper Dublin, so we need to pick up the urgency a little bit to pick up some wins.

That game against the Suburban One League American Conference leading Wissahickon is Thursday at Plymouth Whitemarsh at 3:30 p.m. Upper Merion travels to Norristown Thursday for a 3:30 p.m. tilt with the Eagles.

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