Osage boys soccer falls to Clinton in penalty kicks

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Osage sophomore Alex Anderson heads back to his team at midfield after nailing his shot for the Indians in the penalty kick shootout against Clinton on Thursday, October 8, in Osage Beach.

It was a tough ending for School of the Osage considering the way the team played Thursday night. 

The Indians hosted Clinton, a potential future district opponent, and after piling up 28 total shots and possessing the ball for most of the evening, the home side could not find a way to get the ball in the back of the net. After playing the Cardinals to a scoreless draw after 100 minutes through two overtime periods, it came down to penalty kicks and Clinton managed to walk off the pitch with a 3-1 win in the decisive shootout.

"The boys are possessing the ball and outplaying teams, we just need to learn how to finish with confidence and more consistency. That is all I can say," Osage coach Jason Long said after what was understandably a frustrating night in the offensive third of the field. "We had so many opportunities to score on goal- combinations, one-on-one and man- and I honestly don't know the answer. It is like it is in the boys' heads a little bit, but they are playing confident ball. We just need to figure out a way to get it in the goal."

Over the course of the game, the Indians had about 13 opportunities that could have very easily resulted in goals. 

It started about 15 minutes into the contest when senior Anthony Alberti launched a shot just outside the box that narrowly sailed over the crossbar. Alberti came back just a couple of minutes later with a low drive at the top of the box that was stopped with a diving save. 

With about 15 minutes left in the first half, junior Chris Boyd hit a shot near the top of the box that went just wide of the post and three minutes later, senior Alec Hebblethwaite's header just skimmed over the crossbar. Sophomore Will Faulconer hit a shot at point blank range that was saved with about 11 minutes left in the half and sophomore Nate Evans closed out the first half opportunities with just under two minutes left on a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar. 

Clinton nearly scored with a shot at the top of the box to start the second half that hit the post but it was just one of about three solid shots all night for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Evans drilled another shot about 20 minutes in at the top of the box that the keeper was able to quickly recover on a rebound. A Faulconer breakaway about seven minutes later also came up empty after a diving save and junior Mark Pankiv hit a 25-yard shot with four minutes left in regulation that narrowly went wide of the post.

The Indians went back to work quickly in overtime and nearly ended the game with a sudden death golden goal on multiple occasions. Alberti hit a shot in the first 30 seconds that went just wide of the post and a cross inside the box a minute later went just path Faulconer's foot on an empty net. Clinton nearly scored, too, as sophomore keeper Reagan O'Shea had to punch a ball away that nearly crossed the goal line and the last real chance the Indians had was an Alberti breakaway in the second 10-minute overtime period that resulted in a shot directly at the keeper.

"We need to be able to figure out a way to score goals in these close games against better teams and that has been our struggle all year," Long stated. "We've played some really high quality soccer teams and we can possess and play with them all over the field. We just need to be a little more potent on our attack. I cannot say anything about the boys because they are getting opportunities, it just has not fallen yet. We practice on it every day and they look good and confident in training sessions, we just have to put it together in the game."

So, after 100 minutes, both teams lined up at midfield and anxiously looked on in the penalty kick shootout. Osage went first and the Indians started with junior Ethan Ford who had his shot blocked along with Alberti in the next round. Sophomore Alex Anderson drilled his penalty kick to keep the Indians alive but Faulconer's shot hit the left post to end it after Clinton made its first three shots in the best-of-five shootout.

"Every one of our shots was on target except for the last that hit the post. The balls were on target and placed right, not down the middle, and in good spots," Long noted, "that kid just guessed right, got a good jump on it and saved a couple."

A tough ending considering how most of the night went for Osage, but Long said there would be no time to dwell with another game on the horizon.

"Our mission statement is we all improve individually so we get better as a team. If we just continue focusing on that, I told the boys to have short-term memory when it comes to things like this so we can look forward and play the next game," the coach said. "This game is over and we have to get ready for Laquey next week. That is all I've got and need them to be focused on right now is the next game."

Osage (8-6) will visit Laquey on Tuesday at 5 p.m. The Indians may face the 10-2 Cardinals again down the road in the postseason, and Long said his team should be ready for the potential rematch.

"We've seen what they got and we ought to go in with some confidence if we seem them again in district play if we can put it in the net. We possess the ball really well, they are going to have a hard time getting the ball in the goal and we are going to have lots of chances so it is just a matter of saying, 'Bring it on,' and let's play the game," he noted. "I told the boys it was going to be a dogfight and we are going to play all the way until the final whistle."