Messiah Meets Familiar Rival, Thompson Nets Game Winner
York, PA — It was number one vs. hadn't-won-in-almost a-month. Nevermind what the statistics suggested, the Messiah Falcons and York Spartans squared off in their annual battle on Wednesday, with the #1 ranked Falcons coming from behind to take a 2-1 victory on the Spartans' home turf.
As the 600-plus fans in attendance assumed it would be, the game between the rivals was a hard-fought contest from start to finish. In the end, senior Danny Thompson's two goals for the Falcons would erase an early 0-1 deficit and send the Spartans to their fifth loss on the season. York (3-5-3) has not won a game since September 11 when they defeated McDaniel College 4-0.
Throughout this game, however, the Spartans played more like rival that Messiah fans are used to seeing; the rival that won three consecutive regular season matchups with the Falcons from 2007 through 2009.
Sophomore midfielder Justin Facer scored the game's first goal to put the Sparatans on top just 14 minutes into play. His score was off a 35-yard free kick that soared to the far right post beyond the reach of Messiah keeper Jake Berry. It was Facer's second goal of the season.
Messiah (10-0-1) would answer only nine minutes later, as Danny Thompson would punch in the game-tying score off a rebound in front of the Spartans' net. The goal was Thompsons seventh of the season, the result of a consistent attack by the Falcons' offense.
Though Messiah would out-shoot York 13-6 in the first half, the score remained tied into the intermission.
"I think York did a good job of taking initiative in the first half," said Messiah head coach Brad McCarty. "They pressed us and won a lot of 50-50 balls. York's a talented team. They're athletic and well coached. We expected that."
In the second half, both teams would battle, at times literally, for an edge on the field. Eleven total fouls were whistled in the second half, with York sophomore Pablo Martinez picking up a yellow card in the 62nd minute. It was the team's second yellow card in the contest, with junior Cody Pearson having collected the penalty toward the end of the first half.
Throughout the rough play, Messiah was able to control both their emotions and the ball. An additional 12 shots in the second half was reflective of their steady and persistent play, and it would pay off in the 77th minute.
Thompson would corral a mishandled Spartan possesion in the midfield, touching the ball downfield into the Falcons' attacking third. With the ball finding it's way behind the defense, Thompson would race ahead for the possession and a one on one advance on York keeper Ethan Kavanagh. His shot, put to the left post, would allude the dive of Kavanagh and give the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
"I was telling myself, 'let the ball settle,' as I controlled it," said Thompson of his breakaway finish. "He (Kavanagh) committed to his left, and I was able to drive it over his shoulder."
The goal, Thompson's eighth of the year, would give his younger teammates something he's proud of: a win over York.
"I want these younger guys to be the first team in a while to 4-0 against York in their careers," said Thompson, aware of the losses to York in past years. "There's a lot of history in this game, so I'm pretty pumped for this team to get this win."
For Messiah, it was the fourth time the team has fallen behind 0-1 to an opponent this season. The Falcons are 3-0-1 in those games.
"When you get scored on, that impacts your emotional stance," said McCarty. "But we try not to play on just emotion. We talk a lot about focus and determination, and those things fuel belief (that we can come back)."
The Falcons will look bring the same focus and determiation, albeit without an early deficit, into their next game on Saturday, Oct. 8, when they play host to Commonwealth opponent Arcadia University. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. on Shoemaker Field. The game follows the 5:00 women's soccer game, also against Arcadia.