DOWNINGTOWN >> A fierce crosswind provided a major obstacle in the opening round of the District 1 4A boys’ soccer playoffs at DiSerafino Stadium on Monday.
And even though both sides had to deal with the gusts of near 30 miles per hour, Upper Dublin handled it more efficiently as the 13th seeded Cardinals sailed into the quarterfinals with a 2-0 shutout that swept previously unbeaten host Downingtown West out of the postseason.
“This time of year you expect it to be cold, but not this windy,” said Upper Dublin head coach Andy Meehan.
“Credit to our players that they were able to perform under these conditions. As much as we think we can affect the game as coaches, the players have to play the game, and they played phenomenal.”
Now 7-3-1, the Cardinals will next face the winner between top-seeded West Chester East and No. 16 Souderton. The Whippets were seeded fourth and wrap-up an abridged season at 7-1-1.
“I feel bad for my guys,” said West head coach John Hatt. “They play hard and it’s a good group of kids.
“But this is it. What can you say? They left it out on the field.”
Upper Dublin has now reeled off five wins in a row. And on Monday, the Cardinals clamped down defensively, limiting a dangerous Downingtown West attack to just three shots on goal in 80 minutes of wind-blown soccer.
“We’ve been playing very well the last four games heading into the playoffs and it just continued,” Meehan explained.
“Everybody on the field for us plays defense, but we have a strong backline, led by Karan Acharya and Sam Moss. (Downingtown West) had some speed on top and some good players but we were aware of them.”
According to Hatt, postseason upsets this fall could very well be the norm during a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.
“You can’t scout opponents, but it is what it is,” he said. “There was no cross-league play this fall so really nobody knows how you match up against anybody else. (Upper Dublin) is a very good team. I don’t think their seed did them justice.”
The Whippets got off to a slow start, nearly giving up a goal in the opening three minutes if not for a header save by defender Ethan Ernst. About 10 minutes later, however, the Cardinals notched what would be the game-winner when senior Josiah Kutai got his foot on a loose ball and it pin-balled into the net.
“The ball just fell to Josiah’s feet, he just put it toward the goal and we got a nice deflection,” Meehan said. “It was a little bit lucky but that’s the kind of things you need to win.”
It took West 33 minutes to register its first shot on goal, and the Whippets didn’t have a good scoring chance until early in the second half, when Trent Valle’s header off a pass from teammate James Wagner sailed just wide.
“We didn’t do the things that made us successful all season long,” Hatt said. “But give (Upper Dublin) credit.
“We are disappointed we didn’t attack like we needed to. Part of it was us, but part of it was them.”
Upper Dublin added an insurance goal with just under eight minutes in regulation on a blast by senior Sean Seabrook, who used the crosswind to place a shot just inside the far post.
“Sean has been doing it all year,” Meehan said. “He’s a captain and our leading goal scorer, and we can count on him to get into dangerous spots and put something on goal.”
In the final minutes of play, West’s frustrations began to simmer over. It culminated when Ernst was issued a red card with 2:02 to go, putting the Whippets down a man while in catch-up mode.
“The wind changed the whole game,” said West goaltender Aiden Primanti. “You have to adjust mentally as a team, and you also have to make sure everybody is on the same page.
“I would say it took us longer (than Upper Dublin) to adjust to it. We got off to a bad start, but in the second half we really started to pick it up.”
The Cardinals had a narrow edge in corner kicks (7-6), but the margin was a more significant 12-3 in shots on goal.
“There are only 16 teams in the bracket and every team is good,” Hatt said.
“I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed,” Primanti added. “It’s frustrating after the regular season we had.”
Upper Dublin 2, Downingtown West 0
Upper Dublin 1 1 – 2
Downingtown West 0 0 – 0
Upper Dublin goals: Kutai, Seabrook.
Goalie saves: Beidner (UD) 3, Primanti (DW) 10.