MANKATO — Just when things were starting to look kind of dire for the Mankato East boys soccer team, senior Brandon Treinen and sophomore Ben Schwartz combined for the equalizer.
The duo teamed up to score the game-tying goal with just over eight minutes left in regulation, enabling the Cougars to earn a 2-2 tie with Holy Family Catholic on Saturday at Thomas O. Anderson Fields. Both teams had chances in the two five-minute overtime sessions but no one could score.
“I knew we were in for a digfight today,” East coach Jerrad Aspelund said afterward. “They don’t have the best record but they play a very tough nonconference schedule.
“They played Eden Prairie the other day and only lost 1-0. Eden Prairie is the No. 1-ranked team in AA so that’s pretty good.”
Saturday’s game was filled with numerous stoppages of play as officials handed out a bevy of yellow cards and even a few red cards. Aspelund felt the stoppages negatively affected both teams.
“We just couldn’t get into a flow and neither could they,” he said. “There seemed to be a lot of questionable calls and no-calls but I don’t think it affected the outcome of the game. It was just a good, even battle.”
The Cougars got on the board first, as HFC pulled Schwartz down from behind while he was going in for a breakaway. Onadipe calmly netted the ensuing penalty kick by goalkeeper John Pearson to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead at the 7:24 mark.
Two minutes later, the Fire tied the score as the ball got by junior netminder Nick Olson. Just before the half, with 2:07 left, HFC scored again and the visitors took a 2-1 lead into the break.
“We preach every day how you don’t want to give a goal in the first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes of a half,” Aspelund said. “And then we allow them to score right before the end of the half. It’s frustrating.”
The Cougars applied noticeably more pressure to the HFC goal in the second half but couldn’t capitalize until the clock got down to single digits. With 8:14 showing, Treinen floated a beautiful pass to the left post from outside and Schwartz went up and headed it into the cross-corner to tie the game.
“It was a perfect pass,” Schwartz said. “He got it to the post and I was able to get it the rest of the way. It was a key goal because time was starting to run out.”
The Cougars continued to apply pressure the remainder of the half but came up empty. The two overtimes were more even as both goalies provided staunch defense.
“I just told the guys to play smart,” Aspelund said of the overtimes. “I said it’s OK to take some risks on offense but we want eight or nine guys back on the defensive side of the field.”
East’s second-half surge resulted in a final shots-on-goal total that saw the Cougars with a 22-9 advantage. East also had a 9-8 edge in corner kicks.
Like his coach, Schwartz said he knew going in that Saturday’s game would be tough.
“They play a very tough schedule so we knew not to be fooled by their record,” he said. “It was a very physical game. Both teams just kept battling to till the end.
“Overall I thought we played well. We made a couple of mistakes in the first half that they caught us on, but otherwise it was a pretty solid effort.”
The draws leaves HFC with a 1-4-2 record. East (5-1-3) returns to the pitch at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a Big Nine Conference game in Austin.
Waseca girls 2, East 1: The Waseca Bluejays received goals from Brittany and Katelyn Miller to slip past Mankato East in the nonconference game played Saturday in Waseca.
With the game tied at 1-1, Katelyn Miller put in the game-winner with one minute left in the first half. Rebekah Kolstad scored the only goal for East off a corner kick.
The loss evens Mankato East’s record at 4-4. The Cougars host Austin at 5 p.m. Tuesday.