By Robert Cole
Fordham Prep and St. Francis Prep’s soccer teams took to the pitch to battle for New York Catholic League’s top spot Monday afternoon and although it is early in the season, the intensity of play did not disappoint the fans, who endured poor weather to witness a 2-2 draw at Fordham University in the Bronx.
The game was a tale of two halves, as the visiting Terriers dominated in the first half, building a 2-0 lead, only to see the home team control the ball and tie the score in the second.
“Anytime you come to Fordham Prep, it’s always going to be a battle,” St. Francis Prep coach Franco Purificato said. “We dominated the first half and then fell asleep. Maybe we thought it was over, but we can’t sleep on anybody, we have to keep that intensity up for the entire game. The game is 80 minutes not 20.”
St. Francis Prep’s Randolf Gotz scored the game’s first goal five-plus minutes into the game when he raced down the right sideline and beat the defender into the penalty box, where he unleashed a shot that found the back of the net to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.
St. Francis added to its advantage minutes later, when Vasilios Mastoras broke free down the middle of the field and fired a shot from the top of the box that beat the Rams’ goalie to put the Terriers on top 2-0.
Fordham had its opportunities to get back in the game later in the first half.
With 22:36 remaining, Eddie Perez-Palaez fired a shot on net that bounced off the post. Then with 35 seconds left to play in the first half, St. Francis Prep goalie Justin Silva thwarted a late attempt on goal to preserve the Terriers’ 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
“Was I expecting to go up 2-0 early? No. But that was great. The kids came out with a couple of nice shots,” Purificato said of his team’s performance in the first half.
Fordham came out strong in the second half, playing with an increased tempo and sense of urgency. Aidan Feeney, broke through to score the Rams’ first goal of the game at the 37:19 mark, which cut the Terriers lead in half.
Both teams continued their intense play, which forced the referee to issue a number of yellow cards as players became more physical.
But Fordham continued to attack on the offensive end of the field, which led to a game-tying breakaway goal by Eddie Perez-Palaez at the 24:52 mark.
With the game tied 2-2, the Rams continued to pressure the St. Francis Prep defense. But Silva, the Terriers’ senior captain, became a brick wall between the posts to keep Fordham from taking the lead.
“Justin is phenomenal,” Purificato said. “He was on top of everything. He kept us in that game the entire game.”
While Silva said he was happy with his effort, he felt he could have done more to help the team.
“I felt I did the best I could, but I could have made more adjustments to help out the team a little more,” Silva said. “I felt I could have made a better attempt on the first goal, but it happens. I will learn and I will fix it the next time.”