Boys Soccer | JM 4, Mayo 3
By Pat Ruff
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
The records they trotted into the game were opposites: Rochester Mayo at 7-2, Rochester John Marshall 2-6.
But this was a night when odds meant nothing.
JM, despite that record, despite playing with a reserve goalie, and despite playing the final 9:34 without its best player, Omar Gargar, still ended Tuesday night by celebrating an unlikely Big Nine Conference boys soccer win at Mayo Stadium, 4-3.
And you know what might have been even more surprising? Neither of the sides were particularly jolted by the outcome. Both apparently saw JM as much better than the 2-6 record it began the night with.
"JM played the way we expected them to," said a gracious Mayo coach Charles Abboud. "They are a good team. Gargar is devastating with the ball at his feet, and Adal Badal is excellent in the midfield for them. They are their two key players. Plus, their supporting players played really well tonight."
JM coach Tony Birch credited his team’s tough early-season schedule for Tuesday’s result.
"We played some very tough Twin Cities teams the beginning of the year," Birch said. "That made us a lot stronger and got us ready for this second half of the season."
Gargar, as good as he is, was not a factor the final 9:34 thanks to his making an inflammatory gesture to the Mayo fans. That got him a red card, eliminating him from this game and JM’s next contest, Thursday at Mankato East.
The game was tied at 3 at the time.
However, instead of looking around with lost looks in their eyes with the loss of their star, JM took its game to another level. Just over two minutes after Gargar’s ejection, sophomore reserve player Vehid Heldovac banged a shot past Mayo goalie Joel Lacine for what proved to be the game-winner.
JM’s Jonathan Orquiz said he and his teammates knew they had to reach down for a little bit extra those final nine minutes.
"I think with Gargar gone, it forced us to pass the ball better," said Orquiz, who had one of his team’s four goals, connecting on a header with 10:29 left in the first half. "I think we started putting even more effort into it."
While JM goalie Nate Bartz allowed three goals, two of them were extremely excusable. Bartz, who was filling in for injured Matt Borth (sore ankle), faced two penalty kicks by Abdirizaq Sabrie. Both of them found the net.
Bartz did come up with one terrific sprawling save, stopping a point-blank Mayo shot with 25 seconds left in the first half. JM went into intermission on top 2-1, Ian Chute and Orquiz getting JM’s goals. Gargar and Badal had the assists. Mayo’s goal came from Geoff Halling, off an assist by Sabrie.
The second half offered a scoring blitz. After Sabrie tied the score at 2 on a penalty kick with 35:16 left in regulation, Gargar put his team right back on top 10 seconds later when Gargar scored on a header. Two minutes later Sabrie scored on another penalty kick.
Finally, at 7:15 of the second half, Heldovac provided JM with the winning score.
Mayo is at Mankato West on Thursday.