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NAC defeats PGC, 4-0 | Joseph Previtali | Saturday, March 10, 2007

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Rome, Italy (11:25 AM CET) | In an offensive explosion, the Pontifical North American College defeated the Pontifical Gallic College today in Clericus Cup action by the score of 4-0.

Jaime Gil of the Diocese of Boise, ID, put the American side ahead, 1-0, with a goal five minutes into the match. The score remained 1-0 until halftime, and then the NAC pulled away early in the second half, with goals from Fernando Saenz of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Jimmy Morrison of the Archdiocese of Mobile. Co-coach Daniel O'Mullane, who assisted on both Gil's and Saenz's goals, finished the scoring later in the second half with a goal of his own, bringing the score to 4-0, where it remained until the final whistle.

"We did what we had to do this week, and we enjoyed playing our game," said O'Mullane. "I think we realized that we can come out and attack these teams, that we don't have to be afraid of what they're going to throw at us."

Deacon Josh Waltz of the Diocese of Bismarck also assisted on Saenz's goal, which came off the first NAC corner kick of the game. On the scoring play, Gil sent the corner kick past the far post, where Waltz controlled it and sent it in to O'Mullane. The co-coach from Paterson, NJ, sent the ball in front of the now-open goal, where Saenz tapped it in. James Adams of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI, also picked up an assist, as he set up Morrison for the third goal of the game.

"Two of the goals (Jaime's and mine) were predicated largely on speed," said O'Mullane, who scored once and assisted twice in Saturday's win. "The other two were due more to the constant pressure we were able to achieve on the defense. Because they couldn't hold the ball in our end we wound up with some good opportunities."

Gil, who played center midfielder today, rather than the more defensive stopper position that he played last week, took a staggering 11 shots on goal. After scoring early in the first half, he finished another chance off an O'Mullane miss, but the referee called a foul on Gil for interfering with the goalie, and the goal was waved off. In addition to his shooting efforts, Gil also assisted the final goal of the match. In a familiar sequence, Gil sent a long ball over the French defenders, and O'Mullane outran the French team, controlled the ball, and sent a low shot past the goalkeeper and into the net. O'Mullane took seven shots on goal in the match, scoring on his final shot of the day.

"I told Alejandro del Toro the night before the game that I was ready to play, and that I was going to score," said Gil, who finished with a goal and an assist. "From the beginning of the first half of the game, I was focused and wanted to make every effort to help our team score as soon as possible. It happened right away. It was a great goal--a combination of talent between Daniel and me. >We knew what we were doing."

The French team managed only five shots on goal all game. The NAC defense was anchored by Deacon Aaron Killips and Waltz, along with Paul Fasano of the Diocese of Rockford, IL and Scott Pogatchnik of the Diocese of St. Cloud, MN. Fasano was starting in place of Steve Titus of the Diocese of Cheyenne, WY, who was a late scratch due to sickness, and Pogatchnik was starting place of Rev. Jeremy Leatherby of the Diocese of Sacramento, who was away from Rome on pilgrimage.

The French had one good scoring chance early in the first half, but a header off a corner kick sailed just high of the exposed goal. In the second half, the lead midfielder of the Gallic College unleashed a strong and accurate shot on goal from just past midfield, but NAC goalie Deacon Andy Roza made the save, jumping into the air and punching the ball over the crossbar.

"The chance on the corner kick was a great cross played into the center to one of their taller forwards," said Roza, who recorded three saves in the game. "He was able to get above the defender, but wasn't able to head the ball on goal. It was probably the best opportunity they had all day.

"The shot from midfield was a well-played chip. I was off my line so as to anticipate a through pass to one of his other attackers, and he saw that and decided to try to go over me. Fortunately, I was able to backtrack in time to tip the ball over the crossbar. It was a great shot. It's rare that attackers can be that accurate from that range."

To the credit of the stifling NAC defense and to the comfort of Roza, the French did not have another good scoring opportunity. The NAC has yet to allow a goal in two Clericus Cup matches.

"The defense was strong today," said Roza. "We are continuing to learn how to play together and to hold form, but we are making great progress. "The defense is one of our strengths at this point, and I only foresee it getting better."

O'Mullane concurred.

"Paul Fasano had a huge game for us today, and I'm really proud of what he's been able to contribute to our team," said O'Mullane. "Scott Pogatchnik also had a huge start. He was able to win balls around midfield, which stifled the French attack before they could get going. Waltz and Killips held their ground as they always do. It's great to have a couple of veterans back there to keep the back line together and anchor the defense.

"Our defense is really the heart of our team. I ask everyone to defend, to play a high pressure game, and that's true, front to back."

In typical American patriotic and sporting fashion, the NAC was cheered all game long by a large number of seminarians from the College. Rallied by chants of "USA! USA! USA!" the North American squad did not disappoint their numerous supporters, as the ball, and therefore the pressure, remained on the French defensive side of the field for much of the game. The NAC cheering section concluded their boisterous support of their team with a post-game victory rendition of "God Bless America".

"The fan support was great today and last week," said O'Mullane. "It's great for us to know that the students are behind us, and that they want to see us play well. They've really been a positive influence on us: they challenge us to play hard and remind us that when we take the field we represent more than just ourselves. By and large this has just been a fun event for the college, and we're happy to contribute in a positive way to our community."

The NAC, which won their opening match with the Pontifical Urban College in a penalty-kick shootout, now has five points to their credit, good enough for second place in the standings of Group A of the preliminary round-robin section. They take on the first-place Croatian team next Saturday. The Croats have won their first two games, both by a score of 3-2. The NAC will be without Roza, their starting goalkeeper, on Saturday. First-year goalie Jacob Bertrand of the Diocese of San Diego will get the start in the crucial battle for first place in Group A.

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)
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 IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:

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 IgnatiusInsight.com and the Insight Scoop blog throughout the course of the tournament.

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