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Lansdale Catholic sets tone, controls pace in win over Dock Mennonite

Lansdale Catholic's Matt McDonald battles Dock Mennonite's Hayden Phillips for the ball during their game on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LANSDALE >> Just before he stepped on the field, Lansdale Catholic junior Matt McDonald got a few last words from coach Bill James.

“Ten minutes, as hard as you can,” James said before McDonald headed out with his teammates for the opening tap against Dock Mennonite. McDonald delivered what his coach asked, scoring in the eighth minute to jumpstart the Crusaders to a much-needed win.

McDonald added an assist in the second half as LC’s boys’ soccer team edged the Pioneers 3-1 on Wednesday afternoon.

“We need to turn our season around and I think this was the best opportunity for us to start doing that,” McDonald said. “It’s a good non-league game and it lets us take some momentum into our next league game and try to get a win there.”

Lansdale Catholic’s Sean Cole dribbles the ball upfield as Dock Mennonite’s Hayden Phillips defends during their game on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LC, a state semifinalist last season, is a decidedly different side this year. Naturally, that was expected after graduating guys like Jack Kane, Noah Saba, Will Rex and Josh Yurastis among others. Likewise, James is in his first season coaching the Crusaders, although they haven’t had the early results anyone was hoping for.

As James said prior to the match, the boys are starting to play better soccer and they’ve had to rediscover not only what their identity will be this season, but what it takes to win again. LC hosts Archbishop Wood on Friday, a pivotal match for both sides.

McDonald, a regular starter last season, knew the team would have to redefine itself this fall.

“We needed to fill in the shoes that left, and they were pretty good shoes when you look at the schools some of those guys went on to,” McDonald said. “We needed to play hard and fill what they did last year and make the same adjustments and make the same push into the offseason.”

McDonald put the hosts on the board after senior center back Dan White sent a booming ball out of the back over the top of the Dock back line. The junior was able to get to the ball, then kept his composure as he touched around Dock’s oncoming keeper and slipped the ball home.

LC was inventive all afternoon but couldn’t seem to connect inside the box for the rest of the first half. Still, the early goal gave LC plenty of energy.

Meanwhile, Dock just couldn’t seem to get on the same page.

“Lansdale Catholic did a very good job today, they won a lot of balls, they capitalized on their opportunities and they worked hard,” Dock coach Matt Moyer said. “Our vision today, our technical ability was not on. It truly wasn’t and we looked scattered as a group. We’re going to work on those things tomorrow and we’re going to move on.”

The Pioneers played too fast on Wednesday, with players getting the ball then often quickly booting it away. While not always a bad idea, they had time to scan the field and take a touch plenty of times, which could have led to more combinations going forward.

Dock Mennonite’s Austin Kratz passes the ball between two Lansdale Catholic defenders during their game on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Moyer said he didn’t think his guys pressed too hard after going down, but it was more a culmination of things on the field leading to the disjointed performance.

“We kept going the wrong direction the whole game,” Moyer said. “In those moments, you give credit to the other team for their ability to capitalize on those opportunities.”

LC’s second goal was a thing of beauty.

In the 52nd minute, McDonald heaved a long throw into the Pioneers’ box, where it found freshman Matt McDougal. McDougal, playing with a big foam pad wrapped around his injured right forearm, flicked the ball into the air and as it came down, he volleyed into the corner of the net on a superb strike.

“I was just looking for anyone and luckily Matt got there and scored, it was a great moment for him as a freshman,” McDonald said. “We all were celebrating pretty hard on the field and rightly so. It was a good moment for us to build off.”

LC’s final goal came as a result of the Crusaders hustling to keep the ball after a corner kick. An initial header rang the Dock post, but LC managed to maintain the ball and re-set, with McDougal finding Steve Esterle for a tap-in in the 64th minute.

Lansdale Catholic’s Kyle Kane works to steal the ball from Dock Mennonite’s Jeremy Yoder during their game on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

McDonald said the Crusaders are starting to communicate much better on the field, which is only going to help their already solid ability to move the ball around. LC players were vocal on Wednesday, identifying themselves as open or making a run and the next step is for the guy with the ball to be able to pick them out.

“We found the tempo that we needed to get keep going,” McDonald said. “The urge to get a win is what drove us and we performed well on offense but also on defense.”

Dock got its lone tally in the final minute of play when senior Eric Becker broke down the defense and put a shot into the back of the net.

Wood will present a major challenge to the Crusaders, but LC was looking forward to it. The Crusaders will just have to follow the example McDonald set in the first 10 minutes on Wednesday.

“I always work and I was trying to help our team out,” McDonald said. “Whatever is going to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Goals: LC – Matt McDonald, Matt McDougal (McDonald), Steve Esterle (McDougal); D – Eric Becker.

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