KAISERSLAUTERN,Germany -- The visiting Ramstein Royals extended their mastery of the rival Kaiserslautern Raiders on Thursday night, snuffing out another regular season of Raider upset hopes with a boys and girls soccer sweep.
Ramstein 1, Kaiserslautern 0: The Royal goal that seemed inevitable all game eventually came to pass.
And what a pass it was.
Journey Legg delivered a spot-on cross kick to teammate Hunter Pace, and the Ramstein captain headed the ball into the net for the only goal the Royals would need.
Pace said her goal was almost another near-miss in an evening full of them, describing a brief "panic attack" when she lost the ball in the stadium's unfamiliar lights.
"I thought for sure I was going to miss it," Pace said. "I found it just in time."
And she found it just as time was starting to work against her side. The winning goal came 35 minutes into the second half, but it was the product of an evening's worth of steady-paced legwork.
Legg, Pace and omnipresent striker Ebony Madrid kept constant pressure on the Raider defense, necessitating a number of diving stops by Kaiserslautern goalkeeper Montana Staab. The busy Raider goalie made 16 saves and saw several more attempts sail high or wide before the odds caught up with her.
"I told the girls, 'Keep working on your passing game,'" Ramstein coach Ricardo Buitrago said. "'Keep shooting and it will eventually go in.'"
While bending and finally breaking the Raider defense, the precise Royal offense also served to smother Kaiserslautern's attack. The home team managed only a handful of runs into the Royal backfield and never seriously threatened to score.
It's all part of the Royals' holistic approach to winning soccer, Pace explained.
"What we want to do is make fast, accurate passes, so it's kind of like pinball when we play, so that it frustrates the other team," Pace said. "At that point, it gets really tiring for the other team. And then that opens opportunities for us to shoot."
Ramstein 4, Kaiserslautern 0: While the girls bided their time, the Royal boys weren't nearly as patient. But they were just as persistent.
Devin McGeehan smashed in a close-range shot just 45 seconds into the game, stunning the Raiders, shushing the home crowd and setting the tone for what turned into a runaway victory.
Every time Kaiserslautern attempted to make a game of it, Ramstein responded with another timely goal to press its advantage. Brienno Illari scored just before halftime and again soon after the intermission. A late goal by Cameron Hansen finished off the Raiders.
"It's huge to score early," Ramstein coach Dominik Ludes said. But he added that Illari's goals bookending halftime were what really extinguished any potential Raider rally.
"It kills the momentum of the opposing team, and it just lifts us," Ludes said.
Illari, while distributing credit to his table-setting teammates, agreed that his goal late in the first half was a turning point.
"After we got that second goal, you could see Kaiserslautern kind of drop their head, and we picked it up and we capitalized," Illari said. "We kind of got that boost of energy that we needed."