TAMPA – Countryside scored twice in the first 10 minutes and then held off a strong Palm Harbor rally in the second half to advance to the semifinals of the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.
The Cougars capitalized on a pair of errors by the Hurricanes to jump out in front quickly, Max Seijo and Zack Schriver finding the net for a 2-0 lead. Countryside assistant coach Colby Beckman, filling in for Coach Dave Sica, said his side had made an adjustment to its starting formation that paid big dividends.
“We decided we wanted to push an extra guy forward,” Beckman said. “Not play out normal flat back four to try and jump on them early, that was the idea to put them on their heels, and luckily our guys were skilled enough to do it.”
Countryside’s Jagger Martinez added a third for the Cougars early in the second half, but the Hurricanes roared back getting goals from P.J. McDonald and Ben Sweat to make the score 3-2. Palm Harbor coach Alex Delgado said he thought the introduction of Austin Sweat gave his side the lift it needed.
“He came in, and he sparked the whole comeback, I think,” Delgado said. “He came in and changed things around.”
Beckman said he thought as the second half wore on his side played more not to lose than to win, but the Cougars were able to add an insurance goal just before the final whistle, Martinez’s second of the game, that allowed them to move on.
Countryside will face New Orleans Jesuit in the semifinals, but after a challenging week that has seen a lot of things go against the Cougars, Beckman is looking forward to another big challenge.
“A great side, it’ll be a great test for our team to see if we can fight through the tired legs,” Beckman said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Land O’ Lakes could, and likely should, have joined the Cougars in the semifinals, but after creating the better chances and controlling the majority of play in the second half against Orlando Bishop Moore, the Gators allowed a late goal to give the Hornets a 2-1 victory.
Land O’ Lakes fell behind early, and was not playing up to its normal standard, but the Gators got back on level terms just before halftime as Jake Frahm scored on a brilliant strike from 25 yards out to make the score 1-1 at the break.
The Gators then had opportunities to take the lead in the second half, but a pair of good headers went over the bar, as did a pair of shots, and Andrew Garcia may have been guilty of a little too much unselfishness as he passed up a good shooting opportunity after beating his man to try and set up Frankie Villar instead, the opportunity ending up going to waste.
That came back to haunt the Gators late, as an indecisive piece of defending allowed speedy Bishop Moore forward Steven Taylor to pick up possession and break in on goal. Land O’ Lakes goalkeeper Kody Parker got a hand to the shot to try and turn it wide, but saw it deflect in off the left post, sending the Hornets through.
Bishop Moore will face Melbourne in the semifinals after the Bulldogs scored three goals in the first half to romp past an Orlando Dr. Phillips side that was reduced to 10 men before the break.