The Langley High boys' soccer team gave it their best shot to bring home a title at last Friday night's Northern Region tournament finals game versus Lake Braddock. But in the end, the Bruins were able to overcome a one goal, second half deficit and squeeze by the talented Saxons, 2-1. The postseason contest took place on Madison High's turf field in Vienna.
Both Lake Braddock and Langley will advance to this week's state AAA boys' playoffs.
Langley, following a scoreless first half of play in which both teams seemed to be getting a reading on one another in the championship showdown, broke through for a score less than seven minutes into the second 40 minutes of play when senior midfielder/striker Dylan Price, off a gorgeous, long throw-in pass from the left side of the field by teammate Jeff Cochran, got himself free on the right side of the goal area and headed the ball into the right side of the net for a 1-0 Saxons' lead with 33:25 remaining in the second half.
"I got some space and headed it into the corner," said Price.
Moments earlier, Price had barely missed scoring on a kick off the right side from 10 yards out.
"We were pressuring them, I poked it past the keeper and the ball went off the right post," said Price, of the missed chance, which ultimately did not matter when he punched in his header goal.
Amazingly, less than a minute after Langley scored, Lake Braddock came right back and answered with the equalizer when Bruin senior midfielder Elhadji Diouf, off his own rebound following a head shot attempt, scored on a scorching, close range shot off the left side to make the score 1-1. The goal was set up by a Lake Braddock throw-in ball.
Just like that, the game's momentum had gone from the Saxons' favor to the Bruins'. Then, seven minutes later, Bruins' senior midfielder Matt Fraedrich came up with what proved to be the game-winner and the biggest goal of the season for Lake Braddock.
The score came off a short breakaway left, the result of a picture perfect up-field pass from teammate Tyler Dunn. Fraedrich received the pass behind the Langley defense, moved the ball forward on the dribble, then lifted a soft touch shot over Jay Lupas, the charging Langley goalie. The ball went into the goal from about 18 yards out and put Lake Braddock ahead to stay, 2-1, with 11 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the second half.
"Obviously, it was a great strike," said Lake Braddock coach Joe Soos, of the goal. "But the ball played into him [by Dunn] was just as important. Tyler dropped the ball over the defense where Matt could get to it. The ball was outstanding and Matt caught it in stride."
UPON SCORING, Fraedrich, in celebration, dashed up the field's far sideline and took off his shirt, pointing triumphantly to the Bruins' fans in the visitors' side stadium bleachers. His teammates and the Bruin fandom were ecstatic at the clutch goal. However, Fraedrich was issued a yellow card for taking his jersey off. He also got a stern talking to by Soos, the Bruins' head coach.
"He just got caught up in the moment," said Soos. "He wasn't trying to show up Langley."
Fraedrich agreed afterwards that he should not have taken off his uniform top. Of the goal itself, he credited Dunn, a senior defender, for setting him up.
"Tyler is a great player and capable of playing the long ball at top and he did," said Fraedrich. "He hit the ball over the top of the defense, and under my breath I said to myself, `Yes.' I knew the keeper was coming out. At first I thought [my shot] was going over the goal and that I hit it too hard."
But it wasn't too hard and went into the net. Seven minutes earlier, Fraedrich had missed a golden opportunity to score when his shot from 15 yards out off the right side on a short breakaway chance went wide right. But he didn't miss a little while later on his chance off the left side, set up by Dunn's pin-point pass.
It was the seventh goal of the postseason for Fraedrich, who scored just two during the regular season.
"He's found his range," said Soos.
At game's end when the final whistle blew, the Lake Braddock student body rushed the field and celebrated in unabashed enthusiasm with the Bruins' players at midfield.
It marked the first time Lake Braddock has won the region crown since 2003 when the Bruins defeated West Springfield in the title game. Lake Braddock also made it to the region finals in 2006 but lost to Woodson.
"I think our kids have shown a belief in themselves where they don't quit and have grown closer and closer as the year has gone on," said Soos, of his squad.
It was a frustrating game for the Bo Amato-coached Saxons, this year's Liberty District champions who were on the doorstep of a region crown before the Bruins broke through for their consecutive second half goals.
"It was a good game and we played well," said Price, the Langley striker. "The biggest regret was giving up a sloppy goal [which made the score 1-1]. Their second goal was a great finish and a great goal."
Price said his team will now look forward to making a strong run at states.
"I think we have just as good a chance as anyone at states," he said. "This loss is tough, but we have a lot of seniors and good leadership. We demand a lot out of ourselves. This is the [closest] group I've ever played on. That's real special. I'm real glad to be a part of this team."