Tournament-bound Memorial, Concord battle to scoreless tie

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Manchester Memorial and Concord High, teams that had long since punched their tickets for the Division 1 Tournament, battled to a 0-0 tie, Friday evening at Chabot McDonough Field. Despite having nothing at stake, the Crusaders and Crimson Tide fashioned a match featuring intensity and sense of urgency usually reserved for a State Final.

Junior keeper Sergio Teruel had five saves to notch the shutout, the eighth of the season for Memorial. The Crusaders are unbeaten in their last eight games (5-0-3) and moved their record to 10-2-3 overall. They close the regular season at Pinkerton (7-6-2) on Thursday.

Concord moved to 10-3-2 on the season, but is 10-1-2 since opening the year with losses to Hanover and Windham.

“We felt pretty good about how the team played,” said Memorial Coach Jerold White. “We thought we should have come away with a win, obviously that didn’t happen, but the boys played well.”

Memorial had multiple chances to win the game in the two 10-minute overtime sessions but were thwarted by some brilliant play in net by Concord keeper Max Leahy (9 saves).

With the Crimson Tide showing signs of fatigue, the Crusaders dominated the first OT session and swarmed the attack zone. Dollby St. Louis nearly ended things in the first minute. The junior forward was on the receiving end of a chip pass from Artur Moura and headed it toward the far corner, only to see Leahy dive to his right to make the save.

Later, Leahy made another diving stop on a shot by Payton Auprey and an even better leaping save on a bid by Tyler Telge.

“(Leahy) made some really good saves. He had his hands on everything, he was awesome,” said White.

Memorial midfielder Osvaldo Flores had the best scoring chance of the second OT. His shot from the right side was deflected and scooted past Leahy, before rolling tantalizingly across the goal mouth before being cleared away.

Much of regulation was dominated by the defenses and a swirling, 10 MPH wind that occasionally offered gusts closer to 20 MPH. The wind made passing the ball any meaningful distance a challenge for both squads, as passes downfield and across the field tended to sail and skitter much further and faster than intended.

White continually encouraged his squad to keep their passes short to negate the wind.

“Play simple, find the next foot,” White shouted, on several occasions. It was a message echoed by assistant coaches Jeff Aupry and Sean McCoubry, who White heaps praise on for helping build Memorial into a state titled contender this season.

Throughout the match, both teams marked tightly and packed the box, denying the offenses the opportunity to get clean looks. Most shot attempts were blocked before ever reaching the keeper or they were rushed and sailed well wide. Nikos Katsiantonis, Merim Husanovic, Mohamed Bah and Evan Hines provided a solid defensive shield in front of Teruel, keeping strikers Alejo Caceres (7-7-14) and Jacque Tunguru (6-4-10) in check.

With the wind at its back, Concord held a territorial advantage in the first half, leading to four corners. But the Memorial defense was up to the challenge.

Concord’s best scoring bid came with about 15 minutes to play in the first half. Senior forward Sujan Buhjel made a nice run down the left side and managed to cut in just enough to put a shot on net. The ball slipped through the hands of Teruel and skid across the crease but was cleared away before another Concord player could get a foot on it.

Memorial began to carry the play in the second half and ratcheted up the pressure on Leahy and the Crimson Tide defense. The Crusaders enjoyed six corners in the half but their best scoring bid came on a beautiful lead pass from Hines to a streaking St. Louis. The speedy forward broke past the Concord defense and in alone on net. But Leahy came out to cut down the angle and made the save.