The Mineola Yellowjackets rallied from a deficit late in the second half to record a 4-3 win against Athens in their opening match of district play. Mineola used a late tie-maker to take the game into penalty kicks, where the Yellowjackets prevailed 3-2.
Outstanding play by Yellowjacket goalie Spencer Rhodes throughout the night kept the Yellowjackets in the match. Rhodes faced 11 shots on goal during regulation play and made one truly sensational save midway through the second half. His efforts kept the ‘Jackets in the match.
The first several minutes were extremely competitive, especially in the mid-field, as each squad attempted to establish itself. In the opening minutes, Mineola took two opportunities into the offensive zone but could not produce a shot on goal.
Once the game settled, Athens slowly began to establish mid-field dominance. For long stretches in the middle of the match, Athens possessed the ball but could not generate a goal.
The Yellowjackets depended on solid positioning and field awareness in stemming the repeated Athens’ advances. The Hornets of Athens had three corner opportunities in the first 15 minutes of play, but each was defended.
The best opportunity for Mineola came when striker Liberio Perez carried the ball down the right flank. His shot was blocked, but the ball fell at Mineola’s feet, and the ensuing shot attempt went high.
The Athens pressure continued to build until the 31st minute, when a corner cross fell at the feet of an Athens attacker who stroked a blistering shot into the corner of the net. At intermission, Athens held the lead 1-0.
Mineola got behind the ball in the second half. Although they stymied further Athens scoring, they spent much of the second stanza in their defensive half. Forward attacking forays were few for the home side.
It was one of those rare offensive flurries that proved fateful in the contest. Centerfielder Omar Galaz found himself in the offensive zone, meters from the box. He put up a curving soft shot that the Athens defender had in clear sight. In a classic howler, the ball passed through the keeper’s hands and rolled into the net. Mineola had evened the score in the 64th minute.
As can happen in soccer, Galaz’s goal changed the whole complexion of the match. Mineola was once again cutting off passing lanes and possessing the ball in the midfield. Despite Athens’ desperation, the Yellowjackets had a number of solid opportunities in the end stages of regulation.
Due to the geographic separation of schools competing in this soccer district, extra time is not played and the teams go directly to penalty kicks when regulation ends in a tie.
All penalty kicks were on goal, demanding reactive saves from the keepers. Despite two beautiful saves by Athens, it was once again Mineola’s keeper Rhodes who saved the day. His three penalty kick saves were each spectacular. After successful penalty kicks by Mineola’s Gustavo Sanchez, Nathan Rojas and Rogelio Delapaz, it was Rhodes’ third save that won the game.
It was an inspiring start to district play for the Yellowjackets and an awesome comeback.