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Tiger boys’ soccer shows well in stalemate with the Tide

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team on Saturday showed against visiting Spaulding many reasons why the group has had a successful fall.
The 5-1-3 Tigers moved the ball well, pressured the Tide all over the field, and created chances in outshooting Spaulding, 28-7.
But they did not win. MUHS needed sophomore Eben Jackson’s well-placed direct kick in the 71st minute to salvage a 1-1 tie against the 0-7-2 Tide.
It was unfortunate they trailed: The Tide’s goal in the second half came after a long direct kick into the Tiger penalty box that MUHS senior goalie Santiago Fernandez caught even though it was well-struck. He came out, left his feet and fully controlled the ball with both hands.
But on the goalie’s way down a Tide player slammed into Fernandez, knocking him — and the ball — to the ground. Spaulding striker Miles Aja banged the ball home after neither referee whistled the foul. One official later said he was screened; the other, according to Fernandez, told the goalie he had not been touched. That opinion was not widely shared.
Regardless, after the game MUHS Coach Reeves Livesay focused on what has gone well for the Tigers, starting with the work of his midfield — seniors J.D. Goettelmann and Tyler Giorgio on the flanks, and junior Ben Turner and Jackson and sophomore Owen Palcsik in the middle — in creating offense and setting up senior striker Camden Simpson.
“We’ve just turned into a possession team. Our midfielders do a good job of moving the ball and playing the ball quickly,” Livesay said.
Meanwhile, in front of Santiago a rebuilt defense — juniors Tucker Moulton and Benjamin Crawford in the middle and sophomores Joseph Findlay and Devon Kearns on the flanks — has pitched four shutouts while allowing five goals in nine games.
“They do a really solid job back there. We haven’t given up many opportunities,” Livesay said. “It’s a young group, and really very quickly this year they gelled and sorted things out.”
Against a Tide team with a misleading record — five of its seven losses have come by one goal — the Tigers took charge early, with Jackson firing three shots and Tide goalie Parker Spaulding (seven saves) denying Giorgio, the left middie, at the near post and coming out to smother a run by Tiger junior middie Max Hirdler.
The Tide relied on long balls to counterattack against the Tiger pressure, mostly down the middle, where repeatedly Crawford headed the ball back to MUHS and Moulton beat forwards to the ball. Fernandez made three first-half saves, but made them look easy. As the half wound down, MUHS nearly clicked on a Moulton direct kick from the left side that sophomore Ethan Kent knocked back across the goalmouth, but Palcsik missed wide right. 
   TIGER SOPHOMORE ANTHONY Garner controls the ball in front of Spaulding defender Jordan Fecher Saturday afternoon. The teams played to a 1-1 tie.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The Tigers were more dangerous in the second half, launching 12 shots after seven in the first, but still lacked a finishing touch.  
“Our midfielders moved the ball real well. What was missing, particularly in the first half, was just finding that penetrating pass to get us in behind the backs,” Livesay said. “In the second half we looked for those passes a little more, but we weren’t able to get anyone on the back end of those passes.”
Still, Giorgio, Jackson, Turner and Simpson all pressed, and Findlay stepped into the attack and just missed in the 25th minute. Finally, Simpson drew a foul just outside the Tide box, and Jackson drilled a 21-yard shot around the wall into the left side of the net, with the goalie going the other way believing his wall had the left corner covered.
The Tigers earned a 9-0 edge in shots in overtime. But Spaulding came out of his net to deny Simpson on a Giorgio feed and Tide defender Camden Child recovered to get a foot on a Turner shot at the penalty stripe to snuff out the best Tiger threats.
Livesay credited Tide defenders Child and Dylan D’Agostino.
“Their center backs did a really nice job,” he said.
The Tigers won at Missisquoi on Wednesday, 5-0. Simpson scored twice and Giorgio, David Peters and Palcsik added a goal apiece. Fernandez made seven saves, while Kyle Gilbert stopped seven shots for MVU.
Livesay is optimistic about the Tigers, who visit Vergennes on Tuesday and streaking Mount Abraham on Friday.
“We’ve been playing well, and we’re putting ourselves in a position that we may be able to have a home game in the tournament, and put ourselves in a position to hopefully go out and win one or two. Or three,” he said.

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