Boys' soccer can't find breakthrough in scoreless draw against Brookline

The Newtonite

by Kristian Lundberg
The match was much more exciting than the scoreboard suggested.
Although scoreless draws tend to be the bane of a soccer fan’s existence, the significant crowd at Dickinson Stadium was treated to an intense soccer match that featured a playoff atmosphere between two bitter rivals.
The Tigers and the Warriors fought to a hard-earned 0-0 draw Thursday in which both teams had their chances, but neither could convert to steal a victory. Tigers’ senior Nick Knaian and Warriors’ senior Miles Rubin provided strong performances in net, and both of them made impressive saves to keep their teams in the match. Meanwhile, on the field there was no love lost between the two sides, as the players, intent on handing their rival a crushing loss, fought for every 50-50 ball with a physicality unusual for a regular season contest. Adding to the intensity was the still fresh memory of the Tigers’ upset in the Division I North Sectional Final, last year, in which the Tigers came from behind to topple the Warriors in penalties.
“That Newton team is tremendous,” Brookline coach Jeff Katz said.
“They’re physical, athletic and tough, and I think they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the state,” he said. “They’re well-organized and they have a lot of technical skill.”
The Tigers displayed that skill level mainly in the second half, when they managed to do everything but score. The team’s style of hammering the ball into the box pushed the Warriors’ defense back into the penalty area, allowing the Tigers’ midfield to control the ball in its offensive third. Senior Matt Moss-Hawkins, the Tigers’ free kick specialist, lobbed dangerous balls into the box, but for the most part, the Warriors were able to clear them successfully.
The Tigers’ best chances came as the result of stellar defensive play. In the 63rd minute, Moss-Hawkins served in a free kick from 35 yards out. Facing away from the net, senior Tim Stanton, a captain with senior Luke Westman, somehow flicked the ball blindly toward the right post. His spectacular deflection easily beat the keeper and rolled in, but Stanton was called offsides, and the goal was disallowed.
Five minutes later, junior Mike Gavris intercepted a pass in the midfield, and despite playing as a defender, he took the ball  toward the net. His low shot from 15 yards out beat Rubin but barely skittered wide left.
Even with the team’s numerous close chances, Stanton was about six inches away from giving his team a full three points. Deep into stoppage time, Stanton won the ball in the midfield, took two dribbles and blasted a shot at the net. His strike slammed into the crossbar and bounced back into play, disappointing the Tigers’ fans, who believed their team had found a breakthrough.
Brookline’s best opportunity to score came with 12 minutes left. A midfielder ran down a header into the box and found himself in alone against Knaian. He fired a left-footed volley near post, but Knaian came up with a huge save, diving to his right to swat the ball away. Brookline’s subsequent corner zoomed threateningly into the box, but none of the Warriors could get a head on it, and the Tigers dodged a dangerous chance.
“We had a better effort all around,” Dow said. “Today I saw a couple of clear chances for us, but the hard part comes in trying to finish.”
Dow added, “In the second half, they came out slow, and we had more chances.”
According to Katz, the Tigers’ second-half resurgence can be attributed to “giveaways—we got pinned in because of unfortunate passes.”
“We needed to find a free lane and move our team up, but we’d win the ball, and we’d give it right back.”
In the first half, Brookline controlled possession and created the majority of the chances. The Tigers struggled to clear the ball out of their defensive half and had difficulty stringing passes together, although, in the 18th minute, Stanton floated a free kick just over the crossbar, nearly scoring from 20 yards out.
In the second half, the Tigers were the ones stepping up the pressure.
At 5-5-5, the Tigers need to earn three points from their final three games to qualify for the State Tournament. With the tie, Brookline now stands at 7-4-3.
After the game, Dow and Katz, good friends outside of the soccer pitch, met at midfield and congratulated each other, despite the animosity between the two sides and the intensity of the match.
At that time, when asked which team would have scored the first goal if the match continued, Katz smiled.
“That’s for you to decide,” he said and walked away.