Work rate leads Abington past Upper Dublin in District 1-AAA 2nd round

ABINGTON >> On Tuesday, Abington defender Jacob Katro was denied a penalty kick goal against Garnet Valley.

Put in a similar position Thursday afternoon against Upper Dublin, Katro would not be denied again. While his effort Tuesday appeared to cross the line before it was palmed out, he left no doubt against Upper Dublin.

It was a good thing he did, as the senior’s goal was the difference as Abington outlasted Upper Dublin 1-0 in the second round of the District 1-AAA boys’ soccer tournament.

The match pitted two nearly equal teams in a back-and-forth fixture that saw neither side truly gain an upper hand. Possession was limited to quick bursts and it seemed the only thing that lifted the Galloping Ghosts was the work rate and desire of their huge senior contingent.

“It was huge, we came in the game knowing they’re a possession-based team,” senior midfielder Jason Gales said. “In our conference, it’s a pounding every week, so we just had to be physical and win balls in the air. We did so and that was key to winning.”

The fervent pace was more in Abington’s favor as the Cardinals wanted to sustain possession and create opportunities on the flanks. While the Ghosts certainly would have liked to keep the ball themselves, the ball-winning tandem of Gales and senior Conor Gallagher in the middle was able to keep UD from doing what it wanted.

Not surprisingly, chances were few and far between for both teams. Each side’s back line covered a lot of pitch and was able to cut down chances. Abington central defender Aidan Coyle continued his run of stellar form, making a couple of pivotal tackles while Upper Dublin got strong outings from Jake Woodruff and Josh Franklin.

All season long, teammates have lauded Gales and Gallagher for their work and work is really all they’re about.

“We just wanted to work hard and stay on the ball and put pressure on them,” Gallagher said. “When they got in our defensive end, our defensive backs, Jacob and Aidan, they were really strong and got it up to our forwards.”

That the game was so even was not a shock given how the teams finished the season. Both Abington (National) and Upper Dublin (American) won their respective SOL conferences with strong finishes to the season.

“I have no complaints,” UD coach Derek Priest said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating to lose, but you can’t say we should have or they should have. They won it fair and square.”

Abington was the slightly more dangerous team in the first half, but only had one shot on frame to show for it. In a game where neither team was going to sit on the ball for two or three minutes and build something, the Ghosts figured it would come down to a restart to decide the game.

A couple of great balls by Coyle and David Pohle had been wasted to that point when the Ghosts won a corner with a bit less than 26 minutes left in regulation. The initial service went into the box and while fighting for it, Ghosts senior forward Matt Bachman was taken down, drawing a foul and the penalty kick.

Up stepped Katro and he put the chance away without issue, staking his team to a lead with 25:10 to play.

“It was a game where each team was going back and forth and we just capitalized on our opportunity,” Gales said.

Upper Dublin came back and nearly equalized, but a good chance for Nick Browndorf went high. Upper Dublin didn’t make the postseason last year, but Priest pointed to the team’s depth and heart as big reasons for the turnaround this season.

The Cardinals were more fresh for the whole season and they began to believe in themselves. Priest was able to take solace that his team won a playoff round and was very competitive in its other game, even when it was playing out of its comfort zone.

“Possession has been key to a lot of what we have done this year,” Priest said. “Again, that’s full credit to (Abington), they made it difficult for us. They worked hard and closed us down. You have to give them a lot of credit.”

The Cardinals weren’t done and brought everything they had left through the final 15 minutes. UD had Abington on its heels at a few points, with Coyle stepping up to deliver a key tackle at one point.

The game’s other decisive moment came when Clemente Nass got in behind Abington’s defense and uncorked a shot. Ghosts keeper Sam Wells was able to get a glove on the ball to deny the strike then watched as Nass sent a rebound high of the goal.

“That was a huge turning point and ‘Swells’ made a great save,” Gales said. “I don’t know, we just had to win. That really was it.”

Abington coach Randy Garber likewise had nothing but good things to say about Upper Dublin and he knew if his team wanted to win, it was going to have to put pressure on the Cardinals.

“We had to come in here with high pressure, not give them time on the ball and close them down as best we could,” Garber said. “That’s exactly what we did, put high pressure and didn’t let them have time.”

Abington moves on to the quarterfinals where it will travel to No. 2 seed Conestoga on Saturday. Much like a senior-led team that won a district title in 2012, this group of Ghosts are growing confident and believing their chemistry and work ethic will continue to carry them.

It’s gotten them this far and they want to see how much more they can get out of it.

“We’re a pretty physical team and we like to push players around and get them unbalanced,” Gallagher said. “We just like playing hard and winning every ball.”

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