Craig soccer shuts out Parker
Janesville Parker dodged right- and left-footed bullets throughout a scoreless second half, but fell 1-0 on its damp home field in Big Eight boys soccer.
While the Cougars (6-7-1, 2-4 Big Eight) had a mere 14-10 edge in shots on goal, they stockpiled scoring chances but struggled to put the ball into the net.
The decisive, twine-tickling shot came midway through the 36th minute when Sean MacDougall played a pinpoint pass to Mo McCrone, who right-footed a low-profile scorcher inside the right post and past goalkeeper Sergio Estrada.
“We’ve been working on passing the ball back to the 18 to get a shot off, and Sean MacDougal just made a really nice pass, and I put it in down low,” said McCrone, who put several shots either wide of the net or on Estrada in the closing minutes. “I thought we were gonna get a lot more, but a win’s a win.”
After the Vikings (0-11, 0-5) sprung a few well-timed counter attacks early in the first half, the Cougars spent the bulk of the game on the attack.
“Yes, we dominated possession, but (Parker) played smart ball and had creative chances on the counter-attacks,” Craig coach Charles Friedrich said. “All you need is one quality finish, and it’s tied.
“They almost got it a couple of times, but we just happed to have one of the best goalies in the Big Eight. Thank God.”
Niedermeier, a 6-5 senior, posted his shutout with soft hands and a willingness to leave his feet to fight off several quality Parker chances. He also directed his defense verbally and kept the game on the Vikings’ half of the field with booming drop kicks.
“He’s the consummate goalie. He just doesn’t make mistakes,” Friedrich said.
Estrada was equal to the task. He set the tone 15 minutes into the game when Craig senior Jesse Davila squared up a corner kick from freshman Edgar Reyes. From about six yards in front of the keeper, Davila aimed a solid header toward the upper right corner, but Estrada leaped to snare it.
“He’s a phenomenal talent,” Parker coach Andy Holmes said of Estrada. “He’s got the world to go. He can go anywhere. He made some phenomenal saves, and he’s making a name for himself in the Big Eight.”
Estrada and Niedermeier shined despite the thin layer of water that enveloped the ball all night.
“It does have an effect,” Estrada said. “I could slip, and the ball could’ve gone off my gloves. They could’ve made shots off those.”
But that didn’t happen.
“He made some great saves, especially with the ball skipping and stuff,” McCrone said of Estrada.
The few times Estrada couldn’t corral Cougar shots, his defense cleared the rebounds, just as it did when Tom Kitching rifled a point-blank shot from the right side that Estrada somehow fended off.
That chance, midway through the second half, was part of a four-minute span that saw five scoring chances for the Cougars, including three by Davila.
The Vikings had a last opportunity on a throw-in in Craig territory with 15 seconds left, but the Cougars’ staunch defense kept the ball well outside scoring range.
Parker’s captain, Edison Davila (no relation) played with a fractured right big toe. With a hobble, the Uruguay, South America, native played the bulk of the second half.
“I was staying on the field,” said Davila. “I’ve got a heart for soccer. I was born with a ball in my hand.
“The guy’s got more heart than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Friedrich said. “He plays for Parker, but he’s from Janesville, and he’s a hell of a player.”
The Cougars hope to have turned the corner after losing a double-overtime, 1-0 heartbreaker to Monona Grove last Saturday and a 3-2 stunner against Middleton on Tuesday in which the visiting Cardinals scored the winner in the 79th minute.
The Janesville teams will square off again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday during the two-city tournament at Parker. Parker also plays Beloit Memorial at 9:30 a.m., and Craig faces the Purple Knights at 12:30 p.m.
Friedrich can only expect another battle.
“It’s always Craig-Parker,” he said. “It never is 5-, 6-, or 7-0, no matter what the records are.”
CRAIG 1, PARKER 0
Janesville Craig 1 0—1
Janesville Parker 0 0—0
JC—Mo McCrone (Sean MacDougall), 36:00.
Saves—Max Niedermeier (JC) 10, Sergio Estrada (JP) 13.