Support our mission

The Heidelberg Lions will have at least one last shot at a team championship before the school’s doors close for good in June.

The boys soccer team, riding an improbable unbeaten season into the season-ending DODDS European Soccer Championships, saw their hopes of a perfect season crushed by the defending champion International School of Brussels 2-1 on Wednesday. But Heidelberg roared back in the semifinals, handing Ramstein its first loss of the year to get another shot at the Raiders in Thursday’s championship game.

Heidelberg 1, Ramstein 0: An intense European semifinal game that hardly needed more emotion got some anyway under exceedingly unpleasant circumstances.

The Lions scored a first-half goal that held up to end the title hopes of a top-seeded and previously-undefeated Royals squad striving for another shot at the championship that eluded them in 2012. Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave itself the opportunity to celebrate a European championship when the whistle blows at the end of the final soccer game in school history.

But, for a while at least, both of those compelling storylines were sidelined.

The game endured a long second-half injury delay when Ramstein’s Colin Zeigler and Heidelberg’s Trevor Carr met in a frightening collision near the sideline. Zeigler made impact with the metal structure housing the Lions’ bench, sustaining a severe leg injury that summoned an ambulance to the field. With a wan smile, the Royals senior was stretchered out of the stadium to high-fives from his teammates and heavy applause.

Carr, meanwhile, was handed his second yellow card of the game as a result of the incident and will be sidelined for Thursday’s European championship game.

Of more pressing concern for the Lions on Wednesday was the fact that they were compelled to play the remainder of the game a man short.

When the shock of the incident finally wore off and regulation ticked into the single digits, an increasingly urgent Ramstein team sought to capitalize on its advantage with a series of frenzied attacks on goal. In response, the Lions abandoned all offensive efforts in favor of a tight, single-minded defensive unit in front of goalkeeper Justin Hunter, punting the ball repeatedly back downfield and bracing for the next assault.

“We just had to send it back down,” Hunter said. “We were just trying to make that one goal we scored the only goal of the game.”

That unlikely eventual game-winner arrived 25 minutes into the first half. Junior Justin Rodney produced the opportunity with a volley from the wing, and senior Andrew Guelle converted it with a sliding goal.

With his players strewn on the field around him - some grim and stoic, others in tears - Ramstein coach Dominik Ludes attempted to frame the evening in positive terms.

“They’re showing emotion, so that means that it matters for them,” Ludes said. “The reaction shows me that they really cared this year.

“They’re going to learn a lot from this defeat.”

ISB 4, Patch 0: After watching Patch’s girls dissect Kaiserslautern’s defense with cool precision, Patch’s boys might have looked to do the same against International School of Brussels in their Division I semifinal.

Instead, Patch’s game looked much like the first half of the Patch girls against Kaiserslautern, which was fast-paced but relatively disorganized.

Biram Sy emerged from the mayhem with a goal early in the first half for ISB, but neither side was able to gain enough control to score for the rest of the half.

But ISB’s Sean Crowley added to the team’s lead in the opening minutes of the second half after Patch’s goalie came out of position to make a play on a breakaway Crowley. When the goalie fumbled the ball, Crowley punted it in to put ISB up 2-0.

ISB’s next goal came on a penalty kick after a foul in front of the goal. Less than half a minute later, as soon as Patch put the ball back into play, Sy had the ball again and booted it home for his second goal.

Up 4-0 with 10 minutes left to play, ISB kept up the pressure, and a frustrated Patch team was unable to muster even a consolation goal.

The first half “was like an observation run” for both sides said ISB coach Philippe Kaisin. But after his team’s second goal early in the first half, it got easier.

“I managed to play my whole bench,” he said.

As the defending champion, Kaisin said he wasn’t surprised his team will play Thursday to repeat.

“It could be a surprise for the people who are doing the seeding,” he said. “I said to the kids, we’ll show on the field where we seed properly.”;

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up