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Saturday, September 20, 2008

On Soccer

Goalie’s Yin waiting for offense’s Yang

Through yesterday afternoon’s 0-0 deadlock with Cincinnati, Friars goalkeeper Timothy Murray charged up his fifth goose-egg of the season and lengthened his active shutout streak to precisely 336 minutes, 27 seconds, and counting.

Looking for a catch? That impressive string is protracted in large part by three mutually fruitless overtime affairs. Between the twenty bonus minutes of a 1-1 tie at Holy Cross two weeks back and yesterday’s affair, the cumulative score has read: PC 1, Adversaries 0.

The only victim, ironically enough, was a Georgetown team that had authorized absolute nada in the way of goals leading up to their visit here a week ago today. This week, the likes of Northeastern on Monday and the Bearcats yesterday laid their elbows on the arm-wrestling table and simply didn’t budge for a full 110-minute affair.

Overall, the Friar offense has a slender four goals to speak of in a space of six games on the year and has not scraped out a single multi-goal outing. Yet that jittery brew of dollar-a-day offense and all but supernatural veiling on Murray’s part has amounted to a 3-0-3 transcript, including a 1-0-1 output for four points in the Big East standings.

Still, yesterday’s go-around with the Bearcats was the first of what will be a nonstop train of seven conference tussles. The last minute for assessing fundamental needs has expired, and those fundamental needs are about as explicit as a Lewis Black anecdote.

Game in and game out, PC’s strike force has habitually saved its best for last –whether that means tapping in its singular goal in the sweatier stages of the game or waking up to shower the opposing net like it did to Cincinnati stopper Matt Williams yesterday.

In the two fun-size overtime frames yesterday, the Friars heaved five shot attempts and three shots on goal while the Bearcats could do nothing of either sort. While at Northeastern Monday, they authorized six stabs from the Huskies in the first half while dishing out only one of their own, but went on to hold a 4-1 edge in that category in the bonus action.

More tellingly, in neither of those accelerations did they etch the one goal they craved. Then again, by the grace of Murray, the same has applied to the opposition.

For the better part of Friday’s first half, an ominous salvo unfolded to offer a reminder of the Cincinnati program that had served Murray his true welcome-to-the-Big-East enterprise in the 2006 league playoffs, when Murray pushed away nine shots towards a 2-0 triumph.

But for the home crowd witnessing the Bearcats’ first pre-arranged visit to the Divine Campus since joining the Big East in 2005, it was probably more reminiscent of when Cincinnati bit the Friars back here in last year’s post-season.

In the latter stages of the first half, a difference in precision began to surface with the Providence defense looking a tad more mollified than its guest counterpart. PC ran up a 6-5 edge in the way of mere attempts, but the Bearcats led the SOG count 4-2 when everyone adjourned for a 15-minute retool. The Cats lone missed attempt –off the foot of D.J. Albert- only went down as such for grazing the goal post at the 21:32 mark.

Furthermore, the stats were visually self-explanatory as the Friar attackers were frequently cuffed, congested, and chased into loss of yardage whenever they entered the depths of the offensive zone.

But everything leveled perfectly in the second half. Each club mustered four attempts and each goalkeeper was summoned to make one save apiece. Murray’s praetorian guards were once again responsibly repellent to the opposing onslaught, though the same held true for Williams and his aides.

Perhaps in appropriate accordance with what Murray and the rest of the Friars have done for each other up to this point, the keeper has assumed the vocal habits of a lacrosse goalie, most notably midway through the second half when the Bearcats were awarded a free kick. As the referee set the ball in a position where striker Nick Weightmann had a straightaway shot, Murray promptly called and gestured for four pillars to stand in the range. Sure enough, backliner Justin Kahle clamped down his block of Weightmann’s shot and nimbly cleared it.

That play was ultimately scored as Cincinnati’s last attempted shot of the day.

When PC ran away with the scoring chances in the waning minutes of regulation and the duration of overtime, they carried out the siege in haste, found an empty vat of luck, or just ran into a daylong resolute defense.

Did they just wake up too late to concoct a finishing, winning potion?

In any case, the basic agenda calls for nothing beyond keeping Murray’s arrangement unaltered and to discontinue mirroring the opposing offense. Solid decisiveness is the essential still missing for the heated Big East season.

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