La Salle boys soccer tops Lansdale Catholic in Philly Catholic League quarterfinals.
Chris Metzler’s had a good career of terrorizing Philadelphia Catholic League defenses.
Friday afternoon, he authored another robust performance as he and his senior classmates on the La Salle soccer team try to keep their final season going. Matched up against a Lansdale Catholic side that’s given him and the Explorers nothing but fits in recent years, Metzler made sure he’d get at least one more game.
The senior scored a goal and assisted the other three as No. 3 La Salle blanked No. 6 Lansdale Catholic in their PCL boys soccer matchup 4-0.
“He recognizes where we’re at in the season and he’s a gamer,” Explorers coach Tom McCaffery said. “As a senior, when you’re on a team that wins back to back titles, he doesn’t want to be the guy who lets us down to not get back to the big game. He knows when he’s on, he’s one of the best offensive players in the league and when he’s locked in, he can get the job done.
“We’re seeing right now he is locked in and wants to make another run, so we’re hitching the wagon and hoping it’s a good ride.”
For 37 minutes, the match played out like most LC-La Salle games over the past three years with both teams having spells of possession and creativity but not many shots as a result of it. La Salle edged LC 2-1 in their regular season meeting back in September, but that was the first time any current member of La Salle’s varsity squad had beaten the Crusaders.
LC was really inventive throughout the first half, as the Crusaders looked to attack out of the back and even started their offensive keystone Matt McDonald as a defender. Owen Webster manufactured a number of good runs up the right side while Ray Royds and Jimmy Alff were very good higher up the pitch supporting.
“Owen did a phenomenal job, we didn’t quite get McDonald going as much but we attacked out of the back and used the space well,” LC coach Bill James said. “Our center mids were trying to keep the ball. As the first half ended and in the second half, we stopped connecting and got a lit-
tle too direct.”
Metzler noted his team wasn’t getting many shots early in the first half, something McCaffery attributed to LC’s organized and strong defense. The Explorers coach said his team was too deliberate in the first half and any attempt to try and dribble through the LC backs would likely end in a dis-possessing tackle.
La Salle hadn’t gotten much out of its first four corners, but on the fifth, Metzler put the ball right on the money. Sean McCallum, who had subbed in a few minutes before, was able to station himself in front of the keeper on the near post and got up to thump in the service with 2:35 left in the half.
“Luckily I was able to hit that one over the first defender and he was near post ready to put it in,” Metzler said.
The first goal wasn’t the killer, but the second one La Salle got less than a minute later was. McCallum paid Metzler back for the assist by playing the senior in and the striker did the rest.
“He played me the ball in the middle and I saw the defender’s hips were facing to the outside so I was able to cut in the middle and split two guys,” Metzler said. “From there, I had an open shot on goal.”
The double-strike offensively was just the turning point the Explorers needed.
“We preach that after you get one, you have to win the next five minutes,” McCaffery said. “I take the hockey mentality there that the next shift is the most dangerous after you score a goal. We try to do that with these guys to make sure they’re locked in and don’t take that deep breath to relax.”
Lansdale Catholic likely could have managed being down a goal at half, but giving up a second in such quick succession really forced the Crusaders into some changes. After the break, McDonald left the back to play up top and as time went on, LC pushed more numbers up which in turn gave La Salle more space to work with in possession.
“Metzler is a special player,” James said. “We tried to contain him but he got behind us a couple times and that happened to be in the moment where he burned us and put the ball away.”
La Salle hit for two quick goals again in the second half, the first coming when Brendan Curran finally knocked home a service into the box from Metzler that pinged around a bit. A minute later, Metzler played a ball to David Steinbach and the senior midfielder clobbered the chance into the back of the net to ice the win.
With a healthy lead, the Explorers were able to use their possession as a weapon and made LC work to get the ball. McCaffery said that wasn’t an easy task due to LC’s high workrate but he felt his defenders worked well as a unit to keep the ball moving.
“We knew we had to stop Matt McDonald, he’s their main guy so we had to know where he was at all times,” Metzler said. “We didn’t have to out-work them, but we had to make them work harder by moving the ball around and making them chase more.”
LC’s season does not end. As the top 2A team in the PCL, they will play for the District 12 title on Oct. 30, then play in the District 1/12 subregional the following Saturday. Crusaders keeper Zach Shepardson played well, making six saves and was aggressive in the box against 10 La Salle corners.
“That was the talk after, we still have a lot of soccer to be played,” James said. “We’re going to use a loss like this to fuel things moving forward over the next week without matches then getting out there and working to make sure the season continues.”
The Explorers will face No. 2 Archbishop Wood, a 3-0 winner over Archbishop Carroll, in Wednesday’s semifinal round at Archbishop Ryan. The Vikings beat La Salle 4-0 in their regular season meeting.
While La Salle won the last two PCL titles but Metzler noted there’s a lot of guys on this year’s squad new to the experience.
“It means a lot, we worked for this the whole season,” Metzler said. “It all comes down to the next 80 minutes we play.”
La Salle’s Chris Metzler controls the ball as Lansdale Catholic’s Evan Senour defends Friday.
Lansdale Catholic goalie Zach Shepardson setup as La Salle’s Chris Metzler takes a shot on goal Friday.
Lansdale Catholic’s Steve Esterle settles the ball near La Salle’s Edward Loftus Friday.