For the first time, the Bull City Cup belongs to Riverside’s boys soccer team. The Pirates edged Durham School of the Arts 2-1 in the title game Friday night at Durham County Stadium.
Less than two minutes into the first half, Kevin Whalen gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead off with a deep shot off of a set piece. The goal caught the Pirates off guard, as they struggled to find an answer to the fleet-footed DSA team.
“We’ve started slow a few times this year and it has kind of bit us,” Riverside coach Eric Long said. “We did that again tonight.”
In the 20th minute, a Riverside attack broke past the goalie before being cleared out by a defender. But the drive marked a breaking point for the stout DSA defense, as a few moments later Riverside’s Quan Nguyen rolled a ball between the goalie and the left goal post to even up the score at one.
The game remained tied to end the half, thanks in large part to the reflexes of DSA goalkeeper Brendan Hill.
“(Hill) was great, he kept them in the game,” Long said. “He was solid. Everything that we were trying to do, he stopped, he snuffed out.”
In the second period, the Pirates dominated possession, creating offensive opportunities that hadn’t materialized in the first half.
In the 17th minute of the second half, Riverside captain Zach Litzinger broke through, taking a deflection off of Hill’s hands and burying it in the back of the net, giving Riverside the decisive goal.
Litzinger said that his team made on field adjustments to counter the fast start from the Bulldogs.
“We knew we could out possess this team,” Litzinger said. “We beat them once earlier in the season. We have a lot of skilled players in the midfield that we can just pass around the ball. I think we did a good job of that in the second half, just taking control.”
Capturing the Cup was significant for a Riverside team that had lost in the finals of the tournament a season ago. It was particularly significant for Long in his first year coaching Riverside.
“I think its just setting the bar of where we want to be,” Long said.
DSA coach Amy Green said that her team has a lot to take from this game as well. The Bulldogs lost the first meeting against Riverside 9-0 but fared much better this go-round.
“Especially after our last result, putting Riverside on their heels – we scored first, we scored a quality goal – we move forward now,” Green said.
Riverside raucously accepted the Cup on field after the game.
“We had a slow start,” Litzinger said. “But then we came out aggressively and we really showed that we wanted that trophy, and in the end we got to lift it.”