GREER, S.C. — The good news is, the Wallingford Warriors did not lose their opening game in the National Presidents Cup on Thursday.
The bad news is, for a while, they felt like they did.
The Warriors let a 2-0 lead get away against the Springfield, Ill. Spirit, who rallied with two second-half goals, including the equalizer in stoppage time, to forge a 2-2 tie in the first game of the U17 boys competition at the MESA Soccer Complex.
Alex Burr and John Jacobs, with assists from Andre Rodriguez and Drin Pacuku, staked the local side to their two-goal lead by halftime. Springfield countered with goals off a throw-in and a direct kick.
The Warriors initially came away discouraged, but then sized things up in the big picture.
“It was a little disappointing, but we got a point out of it and that’s huge,” said head coach Dave Rodriguez. “We controlled possession of the ball; we were the stronger team. We had several scoring opportunities in the first half that just missed.”
Rodriguez estimated the Warriors had a 60-40 advantage in possession for the game.
Indisputably, they had two pretty goals. In the 12th minute, Andre Rodriguez dribbled up the left side, cut in and sent a cross into the box that Burr, charging up the middle, one-timed home.
In the 45th minute, just before intermission, Pacuku lofted a ball over the defense to Jacobs, who ran onto it and shot it past the keeper.
The Warriors had chances early in the second half to extend their lead, but could not capitalize. It was a costly opportunity lost.
“I think at 3-0 we would have put them away,” Coach Rodriguez said. “They hung in there for the second half.”
Springfield cut the gap in half in the 50th minute. A long throw-in was redirected with a header, then volleyed home.
The 90 minutes of regulation elapsed, but there was stoppage time. One minute in, Springfield was awarded a direct kick. Wallingford goaltender Joey Slivinski made the initial stop, but couldn’t corral the rebound.
Wallingford had the last chance in the 93rd minute. A Springfield defender tried to clear the ball and it deflected off of Wallingford’s Carmelo Saia. The deflection hit the post and bounced out of play.
“It was a tie, but it sort of felt like a loss,” Rodriguez said later in the afternoon when the Warriors were en route to a minor league baseball game. “But the boys are over it now and I think we’ll be fine for tomorrow.”
This morning, the Warriors face the LV Neon 97 of Las Vegas. The Nevada club beat the Cape Coral Cyclones of Florida 3-1 in Thursday’s other U17 boys game.