Park soccer: Season ends in section semis with overtime loss to EaganThird-seeded Park boys soccer team completes brilliant comeback, forces overtime, before falling to host Eagan on Monday
By: Patrick Johnson, South Washington County Bulletin
There is always drama in the playoffs.
But, the Section 3AA semifinal between Park and Eagan was darn-right Oscar-worthy.
After the third-seeded Park boys soccer team completed a brilliant comeback and force overtime in the section semifinal, Eagan did just enough to keep the Wolfpack at bay and the second-seeded Wildcats escaped its home field with a 3-2 overtime win on Monday, Oct. 19 in Eagan.
“The bottom line is there are only two teams that end their season on a win,” Park head coach Jason Arnebeck said. “Everyone else has to go out at some point. The thing I’m most proud of is the way we went out tonight.”
In the game, 12th ranked Park (12-4-4; 4-3-2 Suburban East) erased an early 2-0 deficit, but Eagan senior forward Justin Clark proved too much for the Wolfpack and propelled the No. 4-ranked Wildcats to the section finals with an assist and two goals — including the game winner.
Clark, who is 16th in the state in scoring, ended the Wolfpack’s season a little over four minutes into the sudden-victory overtime on a breakaway after sneaking behind the Park defense.
“They hit a heck of a shot at the end,” Arnebeck said. “There wasn’t anyone who was going to stop that one. We have to give them credit for coming back and responding after we punched them in the mouth.”
Less than a minute after Eagan (16-2-2; 8-2-1 Lake) took a 2-0 lead with 8:09 remaining in the first half, Park sophomore attacker R.J. Alowonle cut the deficit to one goal with a great individual effort and a laser to the upper left corner.
It was the Wolfpack’s first shot on goal in the game. But, it wouldn’t be the last.
After the break, Park thoroughly controlled the play until the waning minutes of the second half.
Park’s leading scorer — junior Ebenezer Mengistu — tied the game with 14:41 remaining in the game on a wide-open shot that he sliced into the lower right corner.
But, the Wildcats wouldn’t go without a fight.
With 7:07 on the clock, Eagan scored what seemed to be the go-ahead goal, but it was waived off because of an offside call.
Then, with just 23 second remaining, the Wildcats forced Park junior goalkeeper Jeremy Larson to make a big save on a point-blank shot off a free throw. Despite the three goals allowed, Larson kept Park in the game with a number of inspired saves, especially in the first half.
Arnebeck said it was “bar none” the best half of soccer his team played all year.
“Eagan is a very good team, but we were really able to take it to them,” Arnebeck said. “A lot of us really had the feeling we had them on their heals. It was fun for us to be coaches in that second half.”
In the game, Park was without senior Michael Bailey — the team’s third-leading scorer — and key defender Alejandro Medina because of injury.
In addition, Mengistu re-injured his ankle with 10 minutes remaining in the game and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game.
Arnebeck said it was very difficult for those competitors