By David Russell
One-goal games had gone Springfield Gardens’ way throughout the post season, as it used three tight victories to reach the title game. Then the Golden Eagles found themselves battling through another tight contest until a 45-yard blast from James Monroe’s Mamadou Jaith ended the match, as well as Springfield’s soccer championship hopes, in the 79th minute.
“It was a tough one,” Springfield star Christopher McLaughlin said. “Things happen. There’s going to be obstacles on the field and you have to know how to overcome them. Today I guess we didn’t figure out how to overcome these obstacles and we paid the consequences.”
The late score handed the No. 9-seeded Golden Eagles a 2-1 defeat to No. 16 Monore in the PSAL Class B boys’ soccer championship on Saturday at Belson Stadium. Coach Willie Laraque didn’t think his team performed to its potential.
“We didn’t come out here to play today,” he said. “This was not our game. We like to balance the ball a lot. Today we were playing more like ping-pong. I was sorry to see that, but at the end it was a very close game.”
Monroe (14-2-1) scored the only goal of the first half, to make it 1-0 at the break. McLaughlin tied the score at 1-1 with a free kick. His shot deflected off the defensive wall and went in. McLaughlin nearly gave the Eagles the lead, but luckily for Monroe his 20-yard blast hit off the bottom of the bar and did not cross the goal line on the way down in the 30th minute.
Jaith was open with overtime nearing and chose to unleash a shot. Springfield Gardens’ keeper Akeem Kerr got his hands on it, only to have it roll under him for the goal.
“The second half we came out, we were balancing the ball, we were playing a lot better,” Larque said. “Put it this way, their goalie was better than ours and they got the win. We had our chances.”
The title-game loss ended an unlikely playoff run by the Golden Eagles (14-3-0), which included a win over top-seeded Baruch College Campus. Springfield Gardens lost early in last year’s playoffs as the top seed, but they reversed the tables this year. Laraque called that a bit of revenge and showed how hard his team strived to not have another early exit. He said his players just wanted to prove they could play with the best.
“Basically we started out this season as an underdog,” McLaughlin said. “No one expected Springfield to go this far, but we made the impossible possible.”