PEMBROKE — Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, heading was considered a normal phenomenon when it came to soccer. In fact, it was encouraged.
Today? The act results in a penalty, which in turn can completely change the course of a game, and that is what Patriot League boys soccer fans witnessed Wednesday.
Junior Connor Smith registered a pair of goals, including the game-tying tally off a free kick with 10 minutes remaining, as Scituate (3-0-1) rallied to force a draw with Pembroke, 2-2.
“There’s so many seniors on this team this year,” said Scituate coach Ross Maki. “And guys like (Smith) are battling and scrapping for minutes. And the thing we always tell these guys here, especially our underclassmen, is that whatever minutes you get, try to make the most of them. I think tonight, Connor made the most of those minutes.”
It wasn’t an easy comeback by any means. The Pembroke Titans (3-0-1) came to play early, as defensive back Charlie Goncalves found himself in an unconventional spot at just the precise time, in the box offensively. The junior knifed his way through traffic, and put one in the net to give the Titans a 1-0 lead just 12:12 into the game.
From there, the score remained idle until the third quarter rolled around. For most of the game, Scituate isolated Pembroke star Luke Saia, who is coming off a 2019 season in which he notched 17 goals. However, as he has done all year, Saia was ready when the Scituate defensive front loosened up. The senior captain gained possession, then turned on the jets, evading multiple defenders on his way to an easy goal, and suddenly, Pembroke was in complete control, up 2-0 with about five minutes to play in the third.
However, after failing to convert on numerous occasions, the Sailors were handed new life while the final seconds of the third quarter bled away. As the Titans looked to clear the ball, Smith forced a turnover deep in Pembroke’s end, and fired a bullet into the upper-left corner of the net, as Scituate cut it to a 2-1 game entering the final quarter.
With minutes remaining in regulation, Scituate senior Aidan Duffey lined a free kick off the Titans’ crossbar. However, the shot ricocheted out to Luke Gonyea, who then popped the ball about 20 feet into the air. In a knee-jerk reaction, a Pembroke defender headed the ball as he attempted to clear, resulting in a penalty call.
“That first goal helped our momentum,” said Maki. “We were looking up at a score of 2-0, against a very good team at their home field. Any other day, it’s a tough situation to come back from that. We get that first goal, and we start to build momentum. We see another level of intensity and energy from the guys. And we (saw) a sense of urgency, with the result of that call.”
The ensuing free kick missed its mark as well, but this time, the ball skipped right to Smith, who potted his second goal to even the score at 2-all.
“It’s good to take the positives and negatives from (this game) to improve,” said Smith. “But yeah, it’s a good result.”
Senior Nick Alvarez recorded five saves in net for Scituate. Wes Perrotto matched that number for Pembroke, including a highlight save during which he robbed Sailors star John Fogarty on a free kick in the third.
Lucas Crowley tacked on an assist for the Titans.
So for now, it remains to be seen who the top team in the Patriot League’s Fisher Division is, with the Sailors and Titans leading the pack. Pembroke coach Adam Scott, understandably, is already looking forward to his team’s next match with Scituate later this season.
“I think we will be seeing (Scituate) down the road,” Scott chuckled. “Certainly when we play them again, at their place. But the Patriot League is doing a league cup, and I think at this point, they’ll be there at the end, and we know we’ve probably got to go through them if we want to win our division, and the league cup as well.”