Penalty kicks doom Patriots

One error in judgment, one brilliant save, a penalty-kick shootout gone awry, and, poof, Francis Lewis was cooked.
Seemingly in command of national power Martin Luther King Jr. in the PSAL ‘A’ title game, the Patriots let the school’s first boys soccer crown slip through their grasp.
“We had it,” senior midfielder Danny Ospina said. “We had it.”
Instead, MLK rejoiced - “that could’ve been us,” Ospina acknowledged - on the Randalls Island field, hoisting their 10th trophy in 12 seasons after outlasting Lewis, 5-2, in penalty kicks.
The Patriots, by contrast, were heartbroken. Some wept; others sat motionless for several moments.
Lewis took several enormous steps forward this year. The last hurdle, as is so often the case when first building a dominant program, was too steep.
The Patriots won Queens-A-West for the third consecutive season, advanced past the quarterfinals after seeing their season end at that point the last two years, and earned the first semifinal and final berths in school history.
“Not enough,” senior fullback Bryant Vargas said. “We wanted the city.”
As thrilling as their last two playoff victories were, particularly the penalty kick win over Beacon in the semis, the final stage was even more painful.
“One-one, sudden death, no overtime - that tells you the story right there,” Francis Lewis Coach Roger Sarmuksnis said. “It’s unfortunate one team has to win and one team has to lose.”
As coaches and players remained hunched over near midfield or on the sideline after the shootout, the Knights (14-0-2) carried off keeper Malick Faye, who stopped three of four shots in the shootout and scored the clincher, ripping a right-footed blast past Patriots goalie Luis Diaz.
The game turned shortly after halftime. Sensational sophomore midfielder Sebastian Guenzatti gave the Patriots (15-0-1) the lead in the 35th minute, chipping Ospina’s feed over the outstretched arms of Faye into the left corner.
Three minutes after the break, Frank Lopez’s point-blank shot was punched just above the crossbar by Faye, one of those championship-defining plays teams of destiny always seem to make.
“Tremendous,” is how Sarmuksnis described Faye. “Guy has skill; he has natural ability, physically apt.”
Four minutes later, on a free kick, Lewis gave the ball up and MLK went the other way on a counter, taking advantage of a rare tactical error. Sweeper Mauricio Mora and Luis Camillo Aragon got mixed up on the play, and Mama Amar rifled one past Diaz.
It would remain square through 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute, sudden-death overtime periods.
It came down to penalty kicks, the same result as the Patriots’ previous victory. Faye’s ridiculously long reach in addition to superb athleticism enabled him to thwart shot-makers Ospina and Guenzatti at the start. Meanwhile, the first three Knights - Serigne Sylla, Amar and Alexander Zorrilla - all beat Diaz, who made three remarkable saves in the previous match in the same situation against Beacon.
“Penalties go either way: You make it or you don’t,” Vargas said. “For us this time, we didn’t make our penalty kicks. That’s life.”
Once the pain subsides, Lewis will look back fondly at this season. Besides yet another year of domination within arguably the best division in the city, they not only reached the final, but pushed MLK to the breaking point.
“Whenever someone mentions Francis Lewis high school, I’m going to say: ‘Yeah, me and a bunch of others kids led this team to the final.’ Never happened before. It’s something to be proud of. I’m glad we made it here,” said Ospina.

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