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DISTRICT SOCCER: Melvindale gets last minute win to advance to semifinals

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It’s always a team’s goal to be playing some of its best soccer as the district seasons gets underway each October.

Melvindale and Allen Park’s defenses were doing just that Tuesday afternoon in Melvindale in the District 21 quarterfinal.

The game was scoreless until just over a minute to go and at the end of 80, it was Melvindale who advanced with the 1-0 victory.

Until that second, most fans in attendance were most likely preparing for overtime, and even a shootout with the way the defenses were doing their job.

But Melvindale was persistent.

“Our focus this week has been team defense and I think we defended really well today,” Melvindale Coach Brian Fritz said. “We had plenty of chances; we just had a hard time finishing today.”

The Cardinals had at least six quality scoring opportunities in the opening half, including a shot as the buzzer sounded that the Allen Park keeper dove and stopped.

During the break, Fritz told his team to keep at it.

“We just talked about staying with the game plan,” he said. “Keep firing shots and good things will eventually happen.

“We talked about not starting to dump and chase and continuing to control the ball and make runs. Just continue to shoot and good things are gonna happen, and they did.”

The second half was much of the same and things got tense as the clock wound down. Melvindale continued firing shots on net but some excellent Jaguar defense, including a body block with just under five to go, kept the Cards off the board.

It seemed everyone was looking ahead to overtime, but Melvindale was awarded a corner kick with 1:17 to go.

Hector Lopez took the kick and Juan Castillo got a piece of it and netted the game winner as the Melvindale bench erupted.

Although they saw their season end, the Jaguars had much to be proud of.

“I knew it was going to be defensive,” Coach Brian Trionfi said. “They played their butts off (and) Melvindale’s a good team. We were a minute away from taking it to overtime.

Less than a week ago, the Cards were battling for a share of the DRL title and Trionfi was pleased with the way his team competed against them.

“I think our guys have come a long way,” he said. “They didn’t quit. That’s where I can’t be upset with them. They came out and busted their butts for 80 minutes.

“I know it’s tough for the seniors and I know they’re upset, but they definitely should be proud of coming out and making it a good game.”

Trionfi said he knew after the first quarter, it would probably be a one-goal game and said he gives credit to the good Melvindale team.

“We made some switches to defense; kind of moved some guys around that we thought might work a little bit different,” he said. “We worked on our positioning as well as being more aggressive.

“They’re still a young team but from start to finish they’ve definitely come a long way and we’re only gonna get better.”

The Jags will graduate six seniors but will return 15 players next August.

Fritz had a lot of respect for his opponent.

“We did a nice job defending today, but so did Allen Park,” he said. “Allen Park’s defense a goal keeper, they were fantastic today (and) they played a really awesome game.

“I know we beat them twice during the season, but each game was closer than it looked.”

With the win, Melvindale advances to play Riverview on Thursday at 4:00.

Riverview defeated Divine Child in a shootout in the quarterfinals at Tuesday evening.

Last Updated: 10/15/2013 11:46:56 PM EST