REICHENBACH-STEEGEN, Germany -- The postseason is a time to separate the elite from the rest of the pack.
But on Monday, the first day of the 2014 DODDS-Europe Division II boys soccer tournament, there just wasn’t much separation.
The opening-day slate of 15 games produced three ties and five one-goal decisions, leaving the field in DODDS-Europe’s largest division nearly as jumbled as it was coming in. Even two-time defending champion Marymount was challenged by the nominal bottom half of the bracket, edging 11th-seeded Rota 1-0 before handling 10th-seeded Ansbach 3-0.
Marymount was joined in the ranks of the unbeaten by No. 6 Black Forest Academy and No. 3 Naples. Every other team among the field of 15 either lost or tied on Monday.
American Overseas School of Rome 1, SHAPE 1: An evenly-matched game without a clear favorite ended in an appropriate no-decision.
The fourth-seeded Spartans and seventh-seeded Falcons both entered the tournament with hopes of ending Marymount’s two-year reign atop Division II. On Monday, both learned how hard it will be to even set up that opportunity.
Senior Francesco Dinmore scored a late second-half goal to give AOSR, which lost to Marymount in last year’s final game, its only score. Dinmore sliced in from the top left of the box, cut across to the right side and put his head on a well-placed corner kick by fellow midfielder Maximilien Suschetet.
“I saw nobody was on me,” Dinmore said. “I’m usually there for the headers. I’m very confident with that.”
AOSR and SHAPE both still have reason to be confident as the tournament enters its second day. Both teams got into the win column with earlier wins over Baumholder.
The 1-1 tie was one of three on the day; Ansbach and Rota also played to a 1-1 draw, while ninth-seeded Bitburg played to a 2-2 tie with No. 2 AFNORTH.
Black Forest Academy 3, Aviano 2: The tournament’s No. 5 and No. 6 seeds also played right down to the wire.
The sixth-seeded Falcons scored all three of their goals in the second half to pull out a narrow win over the Saints and clinch a perfect first day. BFA beat 15th-seeded Alconbury 3-1 in their early game.
A successful penalty kick by Jordan Stemple woke up the dormant Falcon offense, setting off a second-half run that overwhelmed the stunned Saints.
“I think that kind of sparked something,” Stemple said. “It picked up our intensity for us.”
Dylan Sosso and Jason Kragt scored conventional goals to consummate the rally.
Though it escaped Monday, BFA won’t survive many more lulls as this intensely competitive tournament moves into its elimination phase Tuesday.
“This is a really tough tournament. There are a lot of teams that are evenly-matched,” Stemple said. “We just have to keep playing how we’re playing and doing what we’re doing.”
Bahrain 1, Hohenfels 0: Far removed from its DODDS-Europe peers, Bahrain enters each year’s tournament as an unknown quantity.
And while the team didn’t know exactly where it stood among its Division II peers, it did know this: it was better than the 13th seed it was assigned in the bracket.
“Embarrassing” is how forward Adeeb Qaisi described the ranking, declaring a desire to play “way above” that humble seeding.
That’s exactly what his team did Monday.
Bahrain earned a 1-1 record despite one of the day’s toughest schedule. They edged eighth-seeded Hohenfels to start their tournament, and threw a scare into third seed Naples before taking a 2-1 loss.
Qaisi scored against Naples, while Yazen Saleh scored the decisive goal against Hohenfels.
Qaisi said Bahrain plays a style of soccer that gives it a chance against anyone in the tournament.
“We played wide, and we took some good shots,” Qaisi said.
At this tournament, a good shot is all a team can ask for.