Dateline – November16th, 2014 – Premier Park Fields – Balch Springs, TX
In what can only be labelled as one of the greatest amateur sports miracles in history, The Orange of Devan United were victorious over the previously undefeated Lookout United 3 to 1. In what was ultimately a game of attrition for Devan in which they were somehow able to overcome odds that at the beginning of the game saw them as 4 goal underdogs. “It’s an age old cliche, but it’s true…this is why they play the game” forward Andrew Minigutti said at the post game press conference. “I don’t know if we win more than once if we play this game 10 times, but we certainly won this day!” The regular season matchup was a 4-1 Lookout victory back in September. The transformation of Devan since that game is a tribute to team play and perseverance.
Following that loss Devan would go on a four game winning streak in which they would allow only one goal including 270 straight minutes of shutout soccer. A season ending loss in a meaningless game sent this team into the playoffs on a low note but feeling good about their chances.
Just one week earlier after 120 minutes Devan had pulled out a 2-1 win in the semi-final but was perhaps a little wary of how much the game took out of them facing what was obviously the class of the division all year in Lookout. Lookout finished the season 11- 0 while outscoring their opponents 52-9. The general consensus was that Devan would need a full roster and then some to have any chance at taking down the mighty Blues. The “then some” for Devan seemed in order as 18 showed up for the start of the game.
A constant drizzle and 38 degree weather at kickoff was only tempered by the fact that what would normally be a wind blown field was tamed with little wind at all. Before the game, goalkeeper Matthew Martinez lamented his downfall all season had been that “no matter how much you try, you can’t teach me height!” As if it were preordained, Lookout scored within 5 minutes of the opening whistle to seemingly gain full control of the game. While not overtaking the game, Lookout continued to retain possession in the Devan half for most of the first half. Despite their advantage in possession, Martinez was only required to make a couple of saves of significance before the turning point of the game.
On a Lookout breakaway Martinez came out of the eighteen to clear out a ball that was out of reach of the oncoming attacker. While Martinez did manage to get to the ball first and clear it out of play the Lookout striker continued to charge the play and proceeded to take out Martinez in a magnificent collision. Martinez laid on the turf for minutes while team doctor Andrew Minigutti asked him inane questions. After being assisted to the sidelines, Martinez was replaced in goal by team captain Coby Dehaven…and the game went on much the same for the rest of the 90. However while Lookout did seem to have most of the play, they seemed to be satisfied with their 1 nil lead and did not threaten the Devan goal much.
In what seemed to be even more dire circumstances for Devan shortly before halftime sweeper Jim Ivy was also taken out of the game when he was injured by the same Lookout attacker who had put Martinez out of the game. To make matters even worse, Ivy was called for a foul on the very play that he was injured. That seemed to spell doom for Devan as none of the calls were going their way while many of their players were making their way permanently to the sidelines. By the end of the game Devan would have 3 players out for the duration with several others at 50% or less.
With the clock winding down, some on the Devan sideline were conceeding the 0-1 score with some bit of pride at not having gone down further despite the odds and injuries. As the clock struck the 88th minute, Juan Salas, who had replaced Ivy at sweeper, collected a cleared ball at midfield and moved into the Lookout end. Inexplicably, Lookout was laying back, waiting out the clock and did not pressure Salas in what looked like a harmless last attack. Devan had not gotten a shot on goal all half, and as Salas lofted a ball into the Lookout goalbox, there seemed to be little hope. The ball landed at the feet of Devan forward Mark LesPierre in the Lookout 6. With his back to the goal LesPierre managed to fight off 2 Lookout defenders but still found himself with his back to the goal. In a moment of brilliance LesPierre got clear of the keeper and back-heeled the tying goal in the dying minutes.
As the referee blew the whistle for the end of regulation it seemed as though Lookout was stunned beyond belief. Both 15 minute extra periods were played in the middle of the pitch with no clear advantage for either side. The championship was won in the course of 5 minutes of play on both sides of the extra-time. A foray by Devan deep into the Lookout end produced a corner kick. Jeff Davis lined up what seemed to be a routine in-swinger but was much more. As Devan midfielder Jeff Groves would later comment, “as soon as Davis hit that corner, he was running to the center circle saying ‘that’s in baby!'” And in it was, catching the Lookout defense unawares. Despite being down only one goal it seemed as though Lookout Utd was conceding the game. They would get off a few centers into the Devan goal box only to be cleanly caught by Dehaven with little or no resistance.
The game was sealed in the 140th minute when Devan forward Brian Krieger carried the ball deep into the Lookout half only to be seemingly denied, but a mix-up by the Lookout defense placed the ball back at Krieger’s feet with only the keeper to beat at the top of the 18. Kreiger calmly deeked the keeper to the right and then calmly put in a shot from 15 yards out. And just like that Devan are the 2014 Fall Champions.
Just two seasons removed from a disappointing loss in the final, Devan won this championship by playing 240 minutes of post-season soccer while allowing only 2 goals. A season that started with a loss and several disappointing ties, this Devan season proves it’s not how you start…it’s how you finish!