Thomas Johnson boys soccer coach Jim Reigel’s team had just remained unbeaten by pulling out a hard-fought 3-1 win over host Oakdale on Thursday.
But at the moment, Reigel did not seem pleased.
“Get over here now,” he yelled, ordering his players to leave the field after tempers threatened to flare yet again following what turned out be a game-ending penalty kick.
Early in the second half, physical play led to some brief shoving, resulting in a red card for a TJ player and a yellow card for an Oakdale player.
And while goalkeepers from both teams, TJ’s Alex Reid and Oakdale’s Dylan Miller, made superb saves down the stretch to keep the match tight, those highlights were followed by more intensity-related chaotic moments in the final seconds.
After a TJ player was taken down in the box, Miller got a yellow card and the Patriots got a PK, which Jeannot Secke used to score the match’s final goal.
With the match over, Reid then ran toward midfield and appeared to approach an Oakdale player. But coaches from both teams immediately summoned players back to their respective sides.
When asked about tempers flaring on Thursday, Reigel said, “It’s unfortunate. The emotions of the past years, probably, boiling over.”
“Even though it’s a crazy, different season, they’re high school boys and they’re competitive, as they should be,” Bears coach Mitch Rubin said. “You don’t like to see all the craziness, but that’s kind of how it was a little bit tonight.”
Reid figured he could take steps to avoid such a situation in the future.
“We all just need to work on our composure,” the keeper said.
With TJ (8-0) clinging to a 2-0 lead after losing a player because of a red card with 35:48 left in the second half, Reid’s ability to make clutch saves against a young but fully capable Oakdale (5-3) team loomed large.
“They were coming down on us hard, and it was a time for me to up my game,” said Reid, who finished with seven saves.
One particularly hectic stretch was set up by one of Miller’s long, booming kicks, this one from over 60 yards away from Oakdale’s goal. Getting the ball after Miller’s boot, the Bears’ Christian Topovich fired a hard shot that Reid deflected over the crossbar.
On the ensuing corner kick, an Oakdale shot banged off the crossbar with 3:03 left.
Earlier in the second half, Reid dove to his left to block a low shot off the head off Sam Starrs.
“It’s sort of a mind game for me,” Reid said. “I always have to stay ready because I’m only getting one or two shots a game, I have to be ready on those one or two shots.”
Reid was self-critical about Oakdale’s goal, which came when Jonathon Fuentes tapped the ball in after it banged off the crossbar, but his coach had no qualms about his performance, which included a tough save off a corner kick with 12:15 left.
“Both keepers did a great job keeping their programs in the flow of the game and giving both teams a chance,” Reigel said.
Miller blocked a Galo Cappelletti’s hard shot with 4:08 left. Two of the goals he allowed came on PKs, including the match’s first score by Sean Weiland.
And TJ’s second goal was set up Weiland’s perfectly placed cross from the right side to Cappelletti, who booted it in to give TJ a 2-0 lead with 10:25 left in the first half.
Aside from saves, Miller’s long kicks aided his offense.
“He’s booting the ball the whole game. He had a strong foot,” Reid said. “That’s dangerous in high school soccer.”
Rubin was pleased with his team’s showing, especially considering the opponent, which he felt could make a run at a state title during a normal fall season.
“There are certain teams that you really feel brokenhearted for not having a state tournament,” he said. “TJ’s boys is one of the ones that I feel that way because they’ve got seniors all over the park who can play, but I thought our guys, they did really well.”