Nile C. Kinnick’s and Matthew C. Perry’s boys soccer teams have blossomed into DODDS Japan’s best rivalry, and Saturday’s tournament final at Yokota’s Bonk Field proved a solid case in point.
Gaku Lange netted his Pacific-leading 33rd goal with 12 minutes left and the Samurai hung on to blank the Red Devils 1-0 for their first championship in the tournament.
“Samurai are champs, baby,” Lange’s father and Samurai coach Mark Lange said. “Another classico. A great game. Both sides played fabulously. The teams respect each other. It could have gone either way.”
“It always has been” a strong rivalry, Red Devils coach Robert Tiffany said. “It’s physical soccer. It’s good soccer.”
Very physical could easily describe Saturday’s final, played under a pastel-blue, cloudless sky and warm, windy conditions. Players pushed and shoved each other repeatedly throughout the match, particularly Lange, built like a string bean, and Kinnick’s brawny Keigo Mull.
“There was a lot of contact between those two,” Tiffany said, adding that in years past, the two teams genuinely disliked each other, but “Mark and I have worked on a lot of things the last five years” to tamp down the antagonism. It’s more positive now.”
In the 78th minute, Perry’s Jon Cadavos made a long throw-in, which was headed high by Kinnick defender Joe Louis. Red Devils keeper Brady Yoder leaped high for the ball, but couldn’t come down with it. Lange then banged it home at the doorstep for the match’s only goal.
The win helped Perry take the season series with the Red Devils 2-1.
Kinnick didn’t go home from the DODDS Japan soccer tournaments empty-handed, repeating its title in the girls tournament at Zama.
Three teams entered play Saturday at Zama’s Huitema Memorial Field with a shot at the title, Kinnick (3-0), Perry (2-1) and host Zama (2-1).
Kinnick had already beaten Perry on Thursday, and when Yokota tied Zama 1-1, it made any tiebreaker scenario mathematically impossible.
Asked if the title can help build momentum for a Far East Division I Tournament run, coach Nico Hindie said: “I sure hope so.” But he added that Kinnick still has “some things to work on.”
“When we play well, I think we can take it to the next level. It depends on which team shows up. There are a lot of other good teams out there,” Hindie said.
While the Samurai boys and Red Devils girls savored triumph, Saturday’s Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Blue Division boys tournament proved tragic yet again for a Seoul American team that’s lost in the final three straight years.
Francesco Louraschi tied it in the 49th minute, then Huchan Lee put Seoul Foreign up for good two minutes laters in a 4-2 comeback victory over the Falcons.
“We took one on the chin again. I don’t know what I have to do,” Falcons coach Steve Boyd said, adding that Seoul Foreign’s bang-bang sequence, which came after Andrew Clark gave Seoul American the lead 2-1, happened because his players relaxed.
“And when you do that, boom,” Boyd said. “If you don’t mark up, that’s what happens. We outshot them 18-5 in the first half. We just didn’t score except for (one) goal. I don’t know how we didn’t score more. But that’s soccer. I feel badly for the seniors.”
Crusaders teams relished a KAIAC title double on Saturday, as Michelle Richardson scored twice and Seoul Foreign shut out Yongsan International-Seoul 4-0 in the girls final.
It was the last match of Richardson’s stellar career. The senior three-sport star (she also played tennis and basketball) graduates from Seoul Foreign next month with 79 goals for her career, 31 this season alone.
The KAIAC girls third-place match saw reigning Far East Division II champion Osan edge Seoul American 3-2. Andrea Carandang netted her 15th goal of the season. The Cougars are 8-2-1 since starting 0-4, and coach Sung Plourde is hopeful of big things at Far East next month.
“We’re coming into it (our own),” Plourde said. “We’re hoping to keep this up through Far East. That’s what we’re shooting for.” Osan has won a record eight Far East D-II Tournament titles.