By Matthew Snyder
With time winding down and the score between the University High School and International boys soccer teams knotted in a scoreless tie, freshman midfielder Patrick Dowd came through in the 71st minute to score the game-winning goal in a the Red Devils’ 1-0 Bay Counties League West victory on Wednesday at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields.
“It was my first league goal for University, so it was really exciting,” said Dowd, who substituted into the game just three minutes before the goal. “I had a bunch of adrenaline. I didn’t even know it went in. I just tried to get to the ball first. It came off my head – I think it came off my head – I’m not quite sure.”
Whichever way he scored – with his head, chest or thigh – the goal, off a corner kick by Diego Lopes, proved to be the decisive blow.
“[Dowd] will remember that goal forever,” said University head coach Deejae Johnson. “It was a great goal at a really important time. Congratulations to him.”
University (12-4-2, 4-2-0) notched their seventh win in a row at the expense of the injury-depleted Jaguars (6-4-6, 4-2-2). After jumping out to a 4-0 start to league play, International, which only had three substitutes available on Wednesday, has slipped in their past four games.
“I thought that tactically, we came into the game really good,” said International head coach Carlos Bover. “I thought we stopped [University] in the key points and it’s a good sign that they were only able to score on a set piece. That’s a really good sign. We knew University was a very, very strong team, and they played well and took advantage of their height. I told the guys, ‘If you keep conceding corners, they’re gonna score,’ and we gave them five [in the second half].”
In addition to the ample amount of corner kicks in both halves, University tallied 15 shots (10 on target) to the Jaguars’ six (four on target).
With Wednesday’s game sandwiched between University’s impressive 1-0 non-league win over Branson on Monday and a Friday-night showdown against first-place Marin Academy, Johnson worried that his side might fall into a trap against International.
“Sometimes you look ahead,” Johnson said. “They’ve got a big game on Friday, but I told them that this was the most important game of the week. This is more important even than Monday. This is the one game they had to have and they needed a good half of soccer, and I thought we got it.”
University dominated possession for much of the half, but failed to make it count.
University forward Sam Reyes nearly assisted fellow junior Alex Warren on a goal in the 22nd minute, but Warren fired his shot into the side netting.
Then, International defender Jose Garduno almost made University pay seconds before halftime, when his free kick from midfield took a heavy deflection that nearly fooled goalkeeper Jack Wilson, who had to shift his weight to save the shot. It almost evoked a bitter memory for the Red Devils, who saw the Jaguars score in similar fashion in the teams’ first meeting this season – a 1-0 International victory on Sept. 21.
“The only difference [with the last game] was that they got a deflection goal in the first half,” Johnson said. “They had their deflection, and I said to my assistant, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’”
After a nervy end to the first half, Lopes helped pick up the slack early in the second. The midfielder sent in a barrage of excellent crossing passes from free kicks and corner kicks (and added a superb long-range shot) that put International’s defense under siege.
International goalkeeper Gabriel Landaverde was equal to everything the Red Devils threw at him, showcasing a series of dazzling saves to keep the game scoreless until Dowd broke through.
“[Landaverde] has been a great surprise for us this year, a great surprise,” Bover said. “You can see that he’s lacking height, but he’s been amazing.”