D-II boys semifinals
AFNORTH looks to take crown from Marymount
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 23, 2018
The AFNORTH Lions have spent the spring preparing for Thursday’s DODEA-Europe Division II boys soccer championship match against the reigning champion Marymount Royals.
All that remains is to find a way to win it.
AFNORTH earned its shot at the Royal dynasty with a rugged 3-2 defeat of Florence in the second of two divisional semifinals Wednesday. Marymount defeated rival American Overseas School of Rome 4-2 in the day’s first elimination game.
The final is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET at Kaiserslautern High School.
Marymount 4, AOSR 2: These two intracity rivals and perennial division powerhouses seemingly can't produce a bad game.
Wednesday's knockout-round match had the look of a rare dud in the teams' eternal feud. Though top-seeded AOSR largely dictated the flow of the game, it was Marymount that entered the final stretch with a 2-0 lead.
That wasn't safe against the Falcons. AOSR, which spent much of the game down a man due to a first-half red card, turned up its offensive efforts, harassing the Royals into a penalty that set up AOSR's first goal and unleashing a few subsequent attempts at an equalizer.
But rather than the tying goal it sought, AOSR inadvertently gave Marymount some room to breathe when a failed clearance caromed into the Falcon net for a 3-1 Marymount lead.
AOSR scored a late goal to threaten again, to which Marymount responded with its own last-minute game-clinching score.
Through a translator, Marymount coach Alessandro Romano called the series "the derby of Rome" and said his team’s familiarity with AOSR allows it to lock in on the Falcons' best offensive players and target their weaknesses in the counterattack.
Wednesday’s semifinal was the latest in a string of compelling matchups between the crosstown rivals, most notably Marymount’s 3-2 overtime defeat of AOSR in the 2017 European championship match.
AFNORTH 3, Florence 2: Senior defensive specialist Laurenz Kohl made a memorable cameo on offense to extend the Lions’ postseason run.
Kohl raced deep into Florence territory late in the second half, drew a foul on an overaggressive defender and converted what held up as the game-winning penalty kick to send the Lions to the championship match.
AFNORTH coach Greg Blankenship said Kohl is “instant offense” when relocated from the backfield to the front line, and he proved the wisdom of the strategy on Wednesday.
Another AFNORTH tactical shift didn’t work out as well. Up 2-0, the Lions got overly conservative in hopes of preserving the lead; Blankenship used the words “old and nervous” to describe his decision, which backfired as Florence scored two goals in quick succession before Kohl’s late drive earned the victory.
Kohl also scored on a penalty kick early in the game. Teammate James Barata knocked in a loose ball for the Lions’ only open-play goal.
AFNORTH and Marymount played to a 2-2 draw in a Tuesday pool-play matchup.