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PNAC Loses to Croatian Team in Shootout | Joseph Previtali | March 21, 2007

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Playing without three of their starters, including goalkeeper Deacon Andy Roza, the Pontifical North American College stared down a seemingly impossible challenge against the highly-skilled and physical Croatian team that, having won their first two games, held the first-place spot in Group A of the 2007 Clericus Cup. Leading 1-0 at halftime, after a goal by co-coach Daniel O'Mullane (assisted by Fr. Jeremy Leatherby), the American side seemed on the brink of an impressive victory, 30 minutes away from sole possession of first place in Group A.

Indeed, the NAC had kept good pressure on the Croatian defense during the first half. O'Mullane had hit the woodwork early on, and they had several other chances, in addition to the co-coach's finesse goal midway through the first half, in which he received the pass from Leatherby, controlled the ball, and flipped an accurate shot over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net.

However, the first 20 minutes of the second half told a decidedly different story. The NAC defense, forced to play without injured starter and energizer Deacon Josh Waltz, played with a self-admitted lethargy, allowing numerous chances for the Croatians, including two free kicks and two corner kicks. Solid play from goalkeeper Jacob Bertrand, who played in place of the vacationing Roza, along with excellent stops from the several NAC defenders, kept the Croatians off the board.

Finally, the Croatian attack broke through the NAC defense. The Croatian attacker shot through the parted NAC defense and fired a 15-yard bullet to the top right-hand corner of the goal, well outside of Bertrand's reach. The Croatians had tied the game at 1-1.

For the final ten minutes of the second half, the NAC defense rebounded and played solidly, and the pressure was even for both sides. The NAC missed a few good chances down the stretch, hurt in part by some poor decision-making in the midfield, where the team was without starter Phil Smith, who was running the Rome Marathon the next day. The game ended in a draw, both teams picking up one league point, and the NAC was once again faced with the penalty-kick shootout, where they would have to earn the coveted second league point against the first-place Croatians.

The shootout started well for the NAC, as Aaron Killips and Fernando Saenz matched the Croatian shooters' successful penalty kicks. The Croatian side was successful on their third, while the NAC's third shooter, James Adams, missed his penalty kick to the left off the goalpost, putting the NAC in a position of disadvantage, from which they never recovered. The Croatians won the shootout 5-4, and they came away with two points to the NAC's one.

With six league points, the NAC now stands in a three-way tie for second place in Group A, behind the first-place Croatians. They play one of their fellow second-place teams, Tiberino, on Saturday. The top four teams from each group advance to the elimination-round of the Clericus Cup.

Pontifical North American College | 2007 Clericus Cup Schedule (Preliminary Round)

March 3, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Collegio Urbano (Field A). 0-0 (4-3).
March 10, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Seminario Gallico (French College) (Field B). 4-0.
March 17, 9:30AM vs. Croati (Field B) 4-5.
March 24, 9:30AM vs. Tiberino (Field A)
April 14, 11:15AM vs. O.M.I. Team (Field B)
April 21, 9:30AM vs. P.U. Gregoriana (Gregorian University) (Field A)
April 28, 9:30AM vs. C.I. Mater Ecclesiae (Legionaries of Christ) (Field B)

Related Articles:

NAC defeats PGC, 4-0 | Joseph Previtali | March 10, 2007
Shootout In Rome: NAC wins its first 2007 Clericus Cup match | Joseph Previtali | March 6, 2007
North American College soccer team wins| Joseph Previtali
Seminarians and Soccer! Meet the Pontifical North American College Clericus Cup Team | Joseph Previtali

Joseph Filice Previtali is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He is in his third year of theological studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he currently resides. In June, he will receivethe Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). Previously, he was sports editor and columnist for The Gonzaga Witness, a Catholic student newspaper, which he co-founded with his friends at Gonzaga University. He will be reporting on the Clericus Cup for and the Insight Scoop blog throughout the course of the tournament.

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