Soccer can be the cruelest of all sports.
Teams can outplay and outshoot the opposition for a good portion of the game but still come up short if they don’t put away every scoring chance.
Exhibit A: Saturday’s Suffolk County Class C boys high school final.
Greenport was solid in every facet of the game but could not put the ball into the net enough times despite countless opportunities. The result was an excruciating loss via penalty kicks to Pierson/Bridgehampton at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. The Whalers prevailed in the shootout, 5-4, after an entertaining, hard-fought 3-3 draw over 80 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Porters head coach Greg Dlhopolsky said. “It’s a tough loss. Any loss is hard, but a loss in the finals on PKs is tougher than most.”
Pierson will meet Nassau County winner Carle Place for the Long Island championship in Uniondale Tuesday.
On a surprisingly warm late October afternoon, in which temperatures soared to nearly 80 degrees, both teams put on a show that included heroics and comebacks, spectacular goals, near misses and game-saving clearances off the goal line.
“We left everything out there,” said junior forward Milton Veliz, who connected on a second-half penalty kick. “That’s what it’s about, try our hardest and look for the victory.”
Added senior midfielder Nery Cano: “We always play to the last minute.”
Despite dominating possession and shots, Greenport (8-9) still had to battle from behind, twice overcoming deficits.
“It’s always great when you get in a back-and-forth battle in any game, especially in a championship,” Dlhopolsky said. “I appreciate how hard we played. Battling back like that shows heart. We’ve done that all year.”
In the tie-breaker, the Whalers (9-8) converted all of their attempts. Ricky Campos and Cano put in Greenport’s first two tries, but Jaime Choy sent his over the crossbar, before Gilson Veliz and Milton Veliz put their PKs way. Quinn Tanner converted the game winner past goalkeeper Kal-El Marine.
Dlhopolsky said that Choy was “upset, but Jaime’s a smart player.
“Those things happen,” the coach continued. “Guys put balls over the net on PKs all the time. Give it to Pierson. They put in five. That doesn’t happen very often. We had four guys we. I said who wants to take the fifth? And Jamie said, ‘Me.’ I appreciate the confidence. He just got under one a little bit and it went over. We wouldn’t even be talking about it if Pierson didn’t hit all five.”
The game got off to an unusual start as both teams showed up in their white road uniforms, although Pierson had been told that as the higher seed, it should wear the more colorful home kits. The Whalers wound up wearing mesh green pinnies over their jerseys so game officials could better identify players numbers.
But the dress code didn’t affect the encounter. Pierson drew first blood 23 minutes and 37 seconds into the match when Marine came too far out of the net, allowing Helio Pacuar to shoot into an empty goal.
The Porters equalized at 35:21 as Cano netted a spectacular tally, scoring what is known as an “Olimpico” goal directly off a corner kick, at the near right post past keeper George Ingolia.
“I tried to catch the keeper off guard,” Cano said.
Pierson, however, retook the lead on Andrew Wayne’s one-bounce header 4:53 into the second half. Then it was Greenport’s turn to surge. Cano equalized at 57:37 and Veliz scored with 16:56 remaining in regulation. Tanner’s goal off his brilliant left-side run knotted it up at 3-3 just 76 seconds later.
The Porters came close to scoring the game-winner several times, including with 2:53 remaining when Wayne cleared Milton Veliz’s shot off the goal line with Ingolia out of position.
“We tried with the pressure, but couldn’t score,” Veliz said.
That was Greenport’s unfortunate story of the game.
“We possessed the game. We had a lot more chances than they did,” Dlhopolsky said. “We just didn’t score at the same percentage that they did. We had chances. We had a golden opportunity with a header over the crossbar, another volley wide, a couple of shots that we didn’t put on net. We played well enough to win but we needed to score more.”