Cougars sag down stretch in draw

Cougars sag down stretch in draw

After dominating a first-half in which their keeper could have studied for a calculus exam, the College of Charleston men lost their mojo in the second, conceded an equalizer to Davidson College, and then held on for an extended-time draw at Patriots Point Saturday.

The informal spring match featured free substitutions and an additional 25 minutes of match play after the full 90, which ended 1-1.

The Cougars looked absolutely dominant in the first half, controlling the pace and flow of the game with a calm, coherent passing attacking that repeatedly pushed possession into Davidson’s third of the field. With Davidson unable to win the ball in midfield, much less maintain possession for more than two or three touches, the Cougars’ high pressure kept the Wildcats under siege.

Yet despite their dominant play, the Cougars’ created only limited chances. It would haunt them later.

With about 76 minutes remaining, C of C began one of their better extended-possessions of the day, concluding roughly a minute or so later with their only goal.

Tanner Clay gets off the shot that put the Cougars up 1-0 in the first.

Tanner Clay gets off the shot that put the Cougars up 1-0 in the first.

After the Wildcats forced a throw-in on the left sideline, the Cougars managed to switch the field with a long pass that found right back Tanner Clay streaking unmarked toward the penalty spot. Though a Davidson center back quickly shut down his unchecked run, Clay managed to withstand the pressure, shouldered his way past the defender into the box, and as a brief window opened before him, calmly tapped a low roller past the Davidson keeper. 

The College gets a head on a corner kick, but the ball sails high.

The College gets a head on a corner kick, but the ball sails high.

With Davidson incapable of mounting a credible counter threat, Cougars keeper Alex Young found himself with little to do. He finally got to come off his line with about 60 minutes remaining to clean-up a stray through-ball that wandered into his area, but that was about it for the first 45. Even the four-man back line had relatively little to do, given the Cougars’ success in midfield. The Charleston attackers stayed occupied, but Davidson managed to survive each of their additional threats.

As if an omen, the Wildcats final put their only pressure of the half on Young a few seconds after the clock ticked down to 45 minutes. A free kick into the box summoned Young off his line, and he punched to ball to safety to send the game to the half.

The second half proved a different story entirely.

In the second half, Charleston ceded its ability to win 50-50 balls to visiting Davidson.

In the second half, Charleston ceded its ability to win 50-50 balls to visiting Davidson.

Both teams came out to start the match in what appeared to be individual flavors of the 4-3-3 formation. Davidson abandoned that idea in the second, taking the field with what appeared to be a five-man midfield and an aggressive defensive scheme that pressed the Cougars all over the pitch.

The result: A dramatic shift in the tone and flow of the match.

Suddenly it was Davidson winning 50-50 challenges, running down second balls and stringing together multiple-pass possessions high up the field. Though the Cougars managed a few decent attacks in the opening minutes, by the time the clock ticked down to 36 minutes the Wildcats were in control and threatening to break through.

The Cougars' Alex Young conceded the equalizer in the second half, but made several saves to preserve the draw before subbing out.

The Cougars’ Alex Young conceded the equalizer in the second half, but made several saves to preserve the draw before subbing out.

Their first serious threat of the day produced a spectacular pair of saves by Young, who punched away the first shot and then managed to smother the bang-bang return volley.

The College’s subsequent possession was its best of the second half. After slowly working the ball into the middle of the field, the Cougars switched the field twice with two beautiful long passes. The controlled attack ended with a bending strike from the edge of the penalty area, but the Davidson keeper managed to palm it clear.

From that moment on, Saturday afternoon belonged to Davidson. Young managed a save with 26 minutes remaining, but two minutes later a dribbling attack by the Wildcats’ Alan Reiter found its way through the center of the pitch, split the high back line and left him with only Young to beat.  With Young rushing forward to cut down the angle, Reiter punched one low toward the right corner, just beyond Young’s diving attempt.

Though certainly on the back foot for much of the half, the College of Charleston did manage to mount threats in the final 20 minutes, including a late corner that produced two headers near the mouth of the Davidson goal. But the two teams remained knotted after 90.

Rising senior Tony Kattreh spent most of the match at forward, but moved to defensive midfield in the extra period.

Rising senior Tony Kattreh spent most of the match at forward, but moved to defensive midfield in the extra period.

This being a spring scrimmage, the schools had agreed to play an additional 25 minutes after a five-minute break. Coach Lundy moved senior leader Tony Kattreh from his lone-striker spot into a central defensive midfield role to start the extra period, but even with a pep talk and fresh subs, the Cougars were largely ineffective against the Wildcats in the final 25 minutes.

Davidson seemed a half-shade fresher, but as the game wound down it was like watching two exhausted heavyweights trading body punches.

The Wildcats got the best chance at a late winner, but flubbed a header that went wide of the post.

TOP PHOTO: The Cougars’ Alex Young cannot reach the Wildcats’ equalizer in the second half of their 1-1 draw. Dan Conover photos.