By Matthew Snyder
Philip Otto punctuated a rare start in midfield by scoring two headed goals and his twin brother Carl produced a game-saving stop at goalkeeper to help the St. Ignatius boys soccer team edge rival Sacred Heart Cathedral 2-1 in an extremely physical West Catholic Athletic League matchup on Tuesday at Kezar Stadium.
The referee issued five yellow cards during the second half and each team felt strongly that it was denied a clear-cut scoring opportunity because of a poor ruling.
“Honestly, I was surprised it didn’t get more physical from the start,” Carl said. “It seemed like it took until the second half to start getting up there.”
In the 54th minute, the referee whistled St. Ignatius defender Danny Casey for a foul on Irish forward Spencer Johnson that was clearly inside the Wildcats’ (9-3-3, 3-2-3) penalty area.
Rather than issue a penalty kick to the Irish (6-6-4, 2-5-3), however, the referee placed the spot of the foul just outside the 18-yard box and issued a yellow card to Casey. The Irish’ ensuing free kick was deflected out of bounds.
“It is bizarre and it’s hard when it comes down to that,” said Sacred Heart head coach Jeff Wilson. “When you get a goal back and you realize that that’s the one that cost you the game . . . but that’s the reality of it. Referees do their best. I don’t know any other way, other than that [Casey’s foul] was clearly two feet inside the box, but so be it.”
In the 68th minute, Irish defender Jack Bragagnolo fouled Wildcats forward Joe Pappas on a breakaway toward goal.
Bragagnolo was the last Sacred Heart defender before his goalkeeper, but the referee gave him a yellow card, much to the chagrin of the St. Ignatius bench, which felt that since Bragagnolo denied Pappas a clear goal-scoring opportunity, he should have been issued a red card. The Wildcats did not convert the subsequent free kick.
Carl had had little to do in goal for the first 20 minutes of the game, but in the 21st minute, a deflection in the Wildcats’ half fell fortuitously for Johnson, who collected the ball and raced toward goal.
“I just saw him coming straight at me, so I just went straight at him, and laid my body out and tried to cover as much of the goal as I could, and [his shot] hit me in the leg and it went out of play,” Carl said.
Otto’s save spurred the Wildcats’ best spell of the first half and his twin brother scored his first goal of the season to give St. Ignatius the lead in the final moments of the first half.
After a crossing pass from midfielder Corey McGrillen, a scrum for the loose ball ensued and an Irish defender collided with his own goalkeeper, causing the ball to pop out toward the left edge of the penalty area, where Otto calmly headed his shot into the open net.
“That channel was open on the back post there, so I hit it hard,” Philip said. “As the cross was coming in, I’m up at the top of the box, and sure enough, the ball pops right into my line. The goalkeeper was caught out on the front post there and I had an open goal, and I was just thinking, keep it down and it’ll go in.”
Twelve minutes into the second half, Philip added a second goal. McGrillen sent in a crossing pass from a free kick on the left edge of the penalty area, which Otto met in the middle of the penalty area. The senior captain headed his shot back across the goal and it bounded off the left post and into the net.
The game became increasingly more physical toward the final whistle, and in the 80th minute, the Irish pounced upon a poor clearance by the Wildcats off a corner kick. As the ball flashed across the St. Ignatius goal, Irish midfielder Nicholas Milkovich pounced and tapped in a shot to cut the lead 2-1.
“[St. Ignatius] is a tough team. They’re physical and they’ll make the most of the situation,” Wilson said. “And it’s hard when you have an opportunity early and you don’t put it away. Then they end up getting [a goal] 30 seconds before halftime, which is hard to come back from, just mentally. For us to get that last one shows, I think, the fight of our team, from beginning to end. That’s what I’m proud of.”