In the darkness that the final five minutes of overtime were played in, it was impossible to read uniform numbers from a distance. As the minutes ticked off, and it got darker and darker, it became harder and harder to follow the soccer ball. With the final 10 seconds being counted off, one could make out the figure of Southold junior Evan Miller falling to the ground in The Stony Brook School penalty area.
Game officials evidently did not see what the First Settlers contended was a foul that should have resulted in a penalty kick. No foul was called on the play, leaving Southold disappointed to close out its regular season with a 3-3 draw at home against Stony Brook on Monday.
Southold coach Andrew Sadowski said Miller had a stud mark on his right ankle as a reminder of that final play.
Sean O’Donnell had knocked the ball forward for Miller, who faced a promising situation as dribbled toward the goal. “I figured if I took another touch I’d get hacked or I was going to score, so I just decided to take that extra touch,” said Miller.
Miller said he was about six yards from the goal when his right ankle was stepped on by a Stony Brook player.
Should a penalty kick have been awarded?
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Miller said. “No doubt.”
Miller had already scored two second-half goals — the second of which came from a brilliant strike — for Southold (8-6-2, 6-4-2 Suffolk County League VIII), but it was the non-foul call in the dying moments of overtime that stuck with the First Settlers, who must now wait and see what impact this result will have on their playoff seeding.
“It’s just disappointing,” said Miller, who leads Southold with 15 goals this season.
Was it an opportunity lost?
“Absolutely it was an opportunity lost,” said Sadowski.
Because of the fading light, two five-minute overtime periods were played instead of two 10-minute sessions.
Stony Brook (0-10-3, 0-7-3), which doesn’t play like a winless team, came within inches of its first win when a long free kick by Nate Hicks bounced in the Southold goalmouth and skipped off the left goalpost. Mark Brathwaite shot the rebound right at goalkeeper Kenji Fujita.
Miller, a midfielder/forward with exceptional dribbling ability, had given Southold a 3-2 lead with a spectacular goal with 16 minutes left in the second half. It was a goal of his own creation. O’Donnell had chipped the ball forward to the right side where Miller retrieved it before touching it past a defender down the wing. He then dribbled toward the middle of the field before drilling a powerful blast from about 19 yards out that left goalkeeper Graham Payne (11 saves) with no chance.
“That goal he had was phenomenal,” Stony Brook coach Jeremy Meserole said, “one of the best goals I’ve seen in a long time.”
But Stony Brook didn’t waste any time drawing even. Brathwaite headed home a Hicks corner kick just 92 seconds later. It was a goal that irritated Sadowski. Miller “scores a brilliant goal, the third one, and then we fall asleep, and because they’re hungry, they come back and they tie it,” he said.
Miller didn’t score Southold’s first goal, but he was an instrumental part of it. Attacking the goal from the left side, Miller sent a shot off the left goalpost, and Christian Fouchet deposited the rebound with the side of his foot into the open goal at 3:03 for his second goal of the season.
Justin Shi and Remy Leutwyler then scored to put the Bears ahead. Brathwaite set up Shi’s goal at 7:57, and Leutwyler slammed in a shot after Southold failed to clear the ball following a Hicks corner kick at 42:17.
Stony Brook’s 2-1 lead lasted only 65 seconds, though. With some nifty dribbling, Miller beat a defender up the middle and finished for an equalizer.
Miller is a productive player as well as a quality player. He nearly added another goal in the second half with a well-struck volley off a cross from O’Donnell that looped over the crossbar.
“We dodged a couple of bullets, but both teams did,” said Meserole.
Southold held a 26-12 advantage in shots, with 12 of them coming from Miller. He also completed 26 of 32 passes (19 of 20 during one stretch bridging the first and second halves), and had 56 touches on the ball.
“He does an awful lot,” Sadowski said. “His work rate is unbelievable. He beats people one on one. He wins head balls. He controls the ball out there.”
Fouchet said Miller “is pretty much the anchor of our team. He pulls it together when we need it. He has a lot of pressure on him all the time.”
And yet, concern has been voiced that with such a talented player as Miller, the First Settlers sometimes defer to him too much.
“He does a lot; some would say too much,” Southold stopper Sam Kortchmar said. “He’s really an awesome player, but I think that’s one of the things, that we tend to rely on him too much, to do too much in the offense for us, and as a result our midfield and our other strikers have some problems sometimes.”
Southold striker Winston Wilcenski took an elbow to the nose from Hicks and exited the game with 7:40 left in the first half. He did not return. Sadowski said Wilcenski may have a broken nose.
Three Stony Brook players — Shi, Hayato Nakanishi and Leutwyler — walked off the field after being hurt, but Meserole said those players were O.K.
It was Southold’s fourth straight game without a win, surely not the way the First Settlers wanted to prepare for the playoffs.
“I really wish we got that last call,” Fouchet said. “We just came off of two really bad losses, so we obviously really wanted this win.”
The implications of the tie remain to be seen.
“I don’t know what the impact of this could be,” Sadowski said. “We just have to sit and wait.”