Upper Perk's John McHale kicks the ball as he collides with a Pope John Paul player in Tuesday afternoon's first home game of the season for the Tribe.
John McHale’s penalty kick score with just 18 seconds left in the game gave the Upper Perkiomen soccer team a stunning 2-1 win over Pope John Paul II Tuesday in new coach Matt Nomland’s home debut.
The superbly conditioned Indians (1-0, 2-1) wore down the visitors after intermission, first tying the game on Elijah Bartholomew’s goal with just under ten minutes played in the second half, and then catching a break when McHale was fouled and awarded the penalty kick.
“I was nervous,” McHale revealed after the game. “We worked hard for 80 minutes; we deserved to win. I didn’t want to blow it.”
Rangy PJP goalkeeper Greg Everett guessed correctly and dove to his right as McHale kicked the ball, but he could not quite reach McHale’s shot before it skittered into the corner of the goal, setting off a wild celebration on the Upper Perk sideline.
The Tribe had fallen behind 1-0 late in the first half when Tim Trainor accepted a goal mouth pass that just eluded keeper Leland Yoder’s diving stretch. Trainor tapped the ball into the empty corner to give the Golden Panthers the lead.
Upper Perk’s Erich Keyser saved further damage with under two minutes remaining in the first half when he stopped a ball that had gotten behind Yoder and cleared it harmlessly away.
Bartholomew knotted the score after relentless Upper Perk effort began taking its toll on the Golden Panthers. Ryan Vader, who pressured PJP defenders all afternoon, hit the goal post with a shot. Bartholomew buried the rebound behind Everett.
The seeds of this win were planted in the tough love conditioning regimen that Nomland implemented from day one of the preseason.
Nomland has stressed 80 minutes of hustle, and it was obvious that Pope John Paul was struggling to keep up in the second half.
“I think our biggest strength thus far as a team has been our physical fitness. The boys have worked hard throughout the past four weeks, and as a result have had the ability to outlast opposing teams.”
“Nomland pushed us extremely hard. He definitely knows what he is doing,” said Keyser. “We were able to play the full 80 minutes so we could push through at the end and win the game.”
Bartholomew was even more succinct. “We ran them into the ground,” he said.
Of course conditioning will only take you so far. Nomland wants his team to play the game the right way, which they did against PJP.
“For the majority of the game we actually played smart. We were finding feet a lot and trying to move the ball up as a unit.”
Nomland, a math teacher at the high school, is in his first year as a head coach anywhere. He was Upper Perk’s JV coach the past two years, and he served as a volunteer coach at his alma mater, Brandywine Heights.
The Tribe’s mentor feels that his team is headed in the right direction.
“We’ve been improving. There are still some things we need to continue to work on. We get a little anxious and start reverting back to old habits, but when we can play with composure we look really good.”