Ag­baa­dem’s big save sinks D-East, helps Penn Wood ad­vance

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge @21st-cen­tu­ry­ @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

LANSDOWNE >> Good­will Ag­baa­dem tight­ened his gloves and stood on the goal line in the length­en­ing shad­ows of Ard­more Av­enue Ele­men­tary School Tuesday af­ter­noon.

As Dan McFar­land backpedaled, lin­ing up his penalty kick in the fourth round of the shootout, Ag­baa­dem didn’t know for sure if the Down­ing­town East de­fender would go left or right, high or low. But the Penn Wood goal­keeper knew for cer­tain that McFar­land’s mind would be as fo­cused on the goalie’s re­ac­tion as on his own de­liv­ery.

“After all those saves,” the ju­nior goalie said, “I was in their heads.”

Ag­baa­dem bat­ted away McFar­land’s shot — just as he did Alex Dove’s spot kick in the first over­time pe­riod — as No. 15 Penn Wood ad­vanced past the No. 18 Cougars, 4-2 on penalty kicks, in the open­ing round of the Dis­trict 1 4A boys soc­cer tour­na­ment.

The re­sult, fol­low­ing a 1-1 draw through two over­times, gave the Pa­tri­ots’ their sec­ond play­off win in pro­gram his­tory. The other came in 2007, in the pro­gram’s first home play­off game.

This time, Ag­baa­dem played the star­ring role.

It started in the dy­ing mo­ments of reg­u­la­tion when he in­stinc­tively reached up to cor­ral a shot by Yousif Taki, a calm save de­spite the Down­ing­town for­ward be­ing in all alone with a chance to end the game on his boot, but his fin­ish was lack­ing.

Ag­baa­dem was forced into ac­tion 12 min­utes into the first ex­tra ses­sion when a hand­ball was called on the Penn Wood line after a chaotic scram­ble in the box. Dove stepped to the spot and tried to beat Ag­baa­dem right down the mid­dle, but the keeper didn’t guess, waited out the shooter and kicked out to his left leg as he dove right, de­liv­er­ing a dev­as­tat­ing blow to the Cougars’ psy­che.

“I was fo­cused, be­cause this is our last chance,” Ag­baa­dem said. “I was like, I’ve got to do this for my team, I’ve got to step up for my team. I’ve got to do this, and I did it.”

“When I see him make that PK stop, I was like, we’ve got a chance of win­ning the game,” said de­fender Frankie Knuck­les, who played a huge role in cov­er­ing ground on the back­line and de­liv­ered a com­posed shootout penalty. “So it makes my other team­mates con­fi­dent in the game, makes them just have enough en­ergy.”

Knuck­les de­liv­ered those quotes from a fold­ing chair at mid­field, with his right thumb and right wrist heav­ily taped, sou­venirs from a pun­ish­ing en­counter. Penn Wood (15-4) was forced to chase the game from the open­ing min­utes, al­low­ing a cheap open­ing goal in the fourth minute when AJ Car­reiro hit a loop­ing side vol­ley of a bounc­ing Mitch Gill throw-in that eluded the Pats’ de­fense.

But un­til Taki’s squan­dered look in the 80th, they pro­duced lit­tle to trou­ble Ag­baa­dem, who made half of his eight saves from the 79th minute on. The psy­cho­log­i­cal recovery for the Cougars (9-6-4) was per­haps the tough­est to get over after Dove was de­nied.

“We had other chances,” cap­tain Dave Reimold said of his con­ver­sa­tion with Dove after the miss.

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