WOBURN – Playing most of the game a man down, the Watertown High School boys soccer team was able to find off the attacks of the defending state champions and win the Div. 3 North Section semifinal in a penalty shootout, Wednesday night.
The top-seeded Warriors (11-2-5) pushed the ball up most of the first half of the game at Woburn High School and had some good scoring opportunities, but they were turned away by senior goalie Sergio Salas.
“He had some huge saves in the first half,” said Watertown soccer coach Frank Cacia. “That’s what senior leaders do.”
Less than six minutes into the second half the Raiders (14-6-1) went down to 10 players when senior midfielder Andrew Koutroukas got a straight red card after an incident near the top of the Watertown penalty area.
Cacia said he was proud of how his team responded.
“Sometimes things happen – you see this ins soccer often – you lose a player to a red card and the team rallies – they take it to the next level,” Cacia said.
After the red card, it was Watertown that was dominating play, and had a few dangerous shots, including one that brushed the top of the bar on an attempt from a sharp angle.
However, neither team could score in regulation. Wayland put on the offensive pressure again in both 10-minute overtime periods, but could not get one past Salas. After overtime the game was knotted 0-0.
“We just had to resist – hold them, hold them, hold them,” Cacia said. “It was just an unbelievable effort. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The game went to penalty kicks, and Wayland got to step up to the spot first. Salas dove to his right and and blocked a low shot from Wayland senior Marco Melero.
Watertown’s first four players – senior Alex Abrahamyan, junior Alex Egan, senior Robert Danielian and junior Jafiah Edwards – stepped up calmly and scored.
Wayland’s last four players made their shots, giving senior Jose Luis Mendoza the chance to win the game for Watertown. He stepped up and buried he penalty shot and ran to celebrate with his teammates after the Raiders’ 5-4 win on penalties.
Cacia said he tries to prepare his players for just such a scenario.
“We practice these penalty kicks at the end of every practice,” Cacia said. “The last 20 minutes we have them practice walking from midfield, grab the ball, put it down – (they) just simulate what will happen in in the post season.”
The Raiders move on to the North Section final for the first time since 2013, when Watertown made it to the state semifinals.
“I’m just proud of the way these guys played,” Cacia said. “Hats off to the defending state champions, but our boys deserved it.”
Watertown will face a familiar foe in the Section final – Melrose. In the first Middlesex League matchup Watertown won 3-0 at Victory Field, while Melrose won its home game 3-0. The Section final will be played Sunday, Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. at Manning Field in Lynn. The winner takes on the South Section champ, either Dover-Sherborn or Norwell.