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Grad Soccer Holds Off Waltham Team

By Josh Elliott
and Jose-Luis Robles
Team Members

After the 50 drubbing of former league leader Lexington last week, the graduate soccer club's game against Waltham, the fourth place team, was expected to be a relatively easier.

When MIT played Waltham last spring, MIT won easily, 40. This season the Engineers seemed to be reaching their peak form just at the right time as they entered the last four games of the tight championship race.

Any illusions of an easy game were shattered when Waltham took the lead after 15 minutes. A scrappy goal was scored after a cross from the left managed to get through the MIT defense and find Waltham's right winger. A bad bounce foiled the last ditch tackle attempted by the MIT full-back, and the winger delivered a well-placed shot to the far post which just beat goalie Bobby Padera G.

To MIT's credit, they showed good character by coming back into the game after being so rudely shocked out of their stupor. From this point on, MIT dominated the game with few or no real scoring chances coming Waltham's way.

MIT offensive pressure led to a corner that Richard Stringfellow G headed from beyond the far post and back in front of the goal. Steffen Ernst G, running at full tilt, jumped and crashed a header off the underside of the Waltham crossbar. The ball was cleared to safety. Another corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble which concluded with Alex Pfaff's shot being deflected by a defender with the goalkeeper stuck in No Man's Land.

In spite of all this pressure, the score remained 10 to Waltham at half time.

To make matters worse, bad news filtered through from the bench that Lexington, the league leaders who were one point clear of MIT, appeared to be coasting to a victory with a 20 lead at half-time over Essex United. MIT faced the prospect of their gallant 5-game unbeaten streak going for nought as their whole season appeared to be going down the tube.

However, in the second half MIT improved its performance from the dreadful first half.

A strong run by Stringfellow down the left flank ended with a sly pass to Ernst inside the box. It seemed that the Waltham defense had recovered as Ernst was forced to dribble backwards and out of the penalty area. But as he moved past the defender, an unnecessarily desperate tackle left the referee with no choice but to award a penalty kick.

Alex Pfaff converted with a low, textbook look-away shot that sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. This goal was just reward for his top-quality defensive midfield performances this season.

This turn of events lifted MIT's spirits and a long period of pressure culminated in a second goal which will probably go down as MIT's goal of the season. Bashar Zeitoon G dribbled the ball into the box past several defenders and all the way to the goal-line about 10 yards from the Waltham right goal post. A picture-perfect chip over the goalkeeper to the far post found Ernst, once again steaming in from the MIT defensive lines. He rose to the task of directing the header into the net from an extremely acute angle.

The last half hour of the game saw Waltham pressing, which inevitably left large gaping holes in their defense. As a result, the best chances at this stage fell to MIT. The best of these was probably a corner, which was cleanly headed by Jerry Lin G, toward the right corner of the net but was somehow saved by a Waltham defender. The rebound was pounded back toward goal by Zeitoon from 10 yards but the ball ricocheted off a defender.

The ultimate satisfaction came with the final whistle when word came from the bench that Essex had indeed tied Lexington in the 88th minute. MIT had moved into first place on goal difference!

The schedule shows that MIT might have tougher games ahead than its rival Lexington. After this Saturday's away game against reigning champions Canary Square, MIT has two relatively easy games against the league-basement teams. On the other hand, Lexington has games against three teams from the bottom four, and looks likely to get all the points. Time will tell who ends up on top in this thrilling duel.