Two teams had incentives that shaped their own play. Brother Rice desperately tried to hold on. Kelly was going to do anything in its power to avoid a loss.
Neither team walked entirely happy as Kelly star senior midfielder Brian Leon scored the equalizer in the 74th minute that held up as Kelly rallied to force the 1-1 draw with the Crusaders in the second game of the Public League/Catholic League Shootout at Solorio Saturday afternoon.
“The last thing we wanted was a loss,” Leon said. “We felt like we dominated the second half and put a lot of pressure on them, and the last thing we wanted to walk away from the game was losing 1-0.”
Kelly sophomore midfielder Alejandro Cervantes created Leon’s opportunity by controlling a ball and making a sharp cross Leon finished with a powerful right-footed blast that ripped past Brother Rice senior keeper Kevin Myren.
Myren proved stellar for the Crusaders. His seven saves, with five coming in the second half, preserved the draw. Kelly nearly pulled out the victory senior forward Jesus Barron rifled a low liner to the near post that Myren saved with a superb diving stab.
The first half proved more strategic than action-oriented. Both teams were content to figure the other out. Brother Rice played with the wind in the first half and Kelly appeared to hold the upper hand by neutralizing the advantage.
Brother Rice freshman forward Edward Velez drew first blood in the 48th minute.
“Playing on a narrow field like this, even against the wind, the ball moved quicker and it was easier to get out,” Velez said.
Sophomore Crusaders’ forward Carlos Gonzalez initiated the scoring sequence with a free kick from about 14 yards out on the right edge.
After a teammate headed the original service ball, Velez alertly knocked in the rebound for his third goal of the season. The one-goal differential nearly held up.
“Our defense, especially in the middle, did a great job of controlling balls and possessing,” Velez said.
Playing in its own neighborhood, Kelly (7-4-3) refused to give up.
“Winning games like this is nice, but it’s not as important as developing and getting better and ready to play in the state tournament,” Kelly coach Stan Mieutus said.
In scoring his team-best ninth goal of the year, Leon had his own take. “You want to win, but sometimes you also have to learn how not to lose,” he said.