On a cold, blustery night at Anneberg Park, Manhattan High’s soccer team was forced to experience a wide range of emotions in the final minutes of its season.
Tied at 1-all, with 1:23 left in regulation, Jonathan Taylor found the back of the net on a Joe Coonrod free kick that would have all but won the game for the Indians.
But the celebration stopped when Taylor was called offsides after a brief meeting by the officials.
With all the momentum on their side, the Lawrence Lions capitalized quickly on the extra chance once overtime began.
In the third minute of the extra period, Lawrence’s Johannes Reiber leapt into the air and won the game with a header into the right side of the goal, beyond the grasp of Indians goalkeeper Kai Reever.
Manhattan coach Frank Alonso disagreed with the offsides call, but was proud of his team for hanging tough.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I’m proud of the seniors,” he said. “The boys were talking about next year and not letting this happen. I’m proud of that, because they grew up as young men there.”
The Indians outshot Lawrence 10-7, but the game was evenly matched all night. The biggest advantage for either team was playing with the wind.
“We knew we were going to have to play the top of our game tonight,” Lawrence coach Mike Murphy said. “When we came out and didn’t have wind, I knew we were going to have to be a little bit stronger defensively, maybe just wait and hold and take our chances when we could.”
Lawrence did just that, playing defensively in the first half, while Manhattan staked a 1-0 lead on an Eric Gray header that Lions’ fans and players, incidentally, also wanted to come off the board for offsides.
Lawrence tied the game seven minutes into the second half on a header by Robert Lyan over the head of Reever. The shot was set up by a nice hustle play by Lawrence’s Luke Matthews, catching up to the ball near the goal line and sending a nice cross that found its way to Lyan after a deflection.
From there, the teams played mostly even, though Manhattan had its chances. Gray sent a shot off the post in the final five minutes, and Manhattan had a corner that didn’t result in a shot attempt just one minute later.
“I knew it would be close,” Alonso said. “They played pretty well early, but I thought in the second half we were much stronger. We had the chances, they had a couple of chances. It just wasn’t our day. We hit the post, and had a call against us with a minute left.”
After having the winning goal come off the board, Lawrence had all the momentum, as well as the wind, going into overtime. Alonso said he told the team to put the call out of their minds.
“We just have to regroup there,” he said. “We got the chance and after that, you just keep going. There’s nothing we can do — we can’t think about it, we just have to keep going.”
After Lawrence put away the winning goal, emotions ran high for both teams.
“I want to thank the team and the seniors for their hard work and dedication this season,” Alonso said. “It’s a heartbreaking loss for us, but I wouldn’t want it to be with anybody else. They were just phenomenal all year. We had a great year.”
Murphy wasn’t in good position to see the offsides play, but was glad the officials made the call they did. Most of the time, those close calls don’t end up coming off the board.
“We were thinking, somebody’s watching out for us tonight, because that doesn’t normally happen,” he said. “That was probably pretty tough for those guys to swallow, no doubt about it.”