Pete McNamara has been coaching soccer at Fordham Prep for almost a quarter of a century and he is usually quick to rationalize game situations, positive and negative. But when the Rams dominated the first half of a CHSAA Class A intersectional quarterfinal game against Xaverian with nothing to show for it, McNamara didn’t have an answer.
“I can’t even try to explain it,” he said. “There’s a skill level that comes with finishing. I think the kids have a pretty good skill level, but they’re rushing sometimes, they get impatient for the goal and sometimes they’re trying too hard. … We hit the crossbar, we missed wide left and right.”
Fordham Prep would win, 2-1, thanks to a goal by star midfielder Jeffrey Horn that trickled off the hand of Xaverian goalkeeper Steven Boundaris seven minutes from full time. The Rams left Randall’s Island on Sunday as one of the four teams still alive for the intersectional championship, a title they won a year ago. But it wasn’t easy.
Fordham Prep outshot Xaverian, 9-1, in the opening 40 minutes – and 18-6 in the game – but the Rams couldn’t capitalize on several quality chances.
The first two minutes of the second half was a carbon copy. Nihad Musovic got behind the Clippers’ defense, but missed the net completely. And Horn also pushed the ball wide on an open shot from 20 yards out.
It seemed the tighter the Rams got, the more it worked into Xaverian’s plans of trying to buckle down defensively and hope for a counter or penalty kicks, whichever came first.
Nick Paganelli finally broke the deadlock, pushing a long throw-in by Musovic into the net to give Fordham Prep (8-2-4) a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute.
“It’s really a killer when you’re shooting on goal and you keep missing all those chances,” Paganelli said. “But you know that if you keep doing it that sooner or later it’s going to go in and that’s what happened.”
Xaverian (3-4-5) fought back and equalized in the 71st minute when Mike Pappalardi beat Rams goalkeeper Stefan Manz off Michael Marando’s deflected corner kick. Suddenly the Clippers were energized.
“I think our kids, once they scored they started waking up a little more, created a few more chances,” Xaverian coach Carlos Jaguande said. “When it was 1-1, I was hoping to go into overtime and see what would happen there or even go into penalties and take our chances from there.”
Said McNamara: “It was a 10-minute game at that point, us against Xaverian. I’m glad we scored and didn’t have to go to overtime.”
Deservedly, Fordham Prep got the go-ahead goal and it was fitting that it came from the left foot of Horn, one of the top playmaking midfielders in the city who was given more time and space than usual Sunday.
It wasn’t Horn’s hardest shot or best attempt of the game, but he managed to catch Boundaris leaning the wrong way and put the ball into the net off the goalkeeper’s hand.
“This game I found myself having a lot of time to hit some shots and I wasn’t hitting them well,” Horn said. “I had a couple in the first half that rolled along the ground. … I’m just glad to be there and have the opportunity to take that shot and win the game.”