Quarterfinal McKenzie Cup, BCS XI 5 - 4 Cambridge Arsenal [14 July 2012]

BCS XI survived one of the most thrilling matches in club history to advance to the semifinals of the 2012 McKenzie Cup.  In a back-and-forth match, the third-division home team prevailed 5-4 in extra time over first-division Cambridge Arsenal.
It was a perfect day for soccer at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, with the game kicking off at 10am.  Following their defeat of second-division Analog, the home team were in a confident mood, but knew to be wary of Cambridge Arsenal's technical ability and deep experience.

From the kickoff, Arsenal demonstrated their movement and offensive threat.  The visitors knocked the ball comfortably around their back four, with the central midfielders dropping deep to pick up possession.  Penetrating the BCS back four on the ground proved difficult, so Arsenal's attention shifted to the outside.  Their outside midfielders pushed high and wide, looking for balls over the top of the BCS fullbacks.  One such ball resulted in a dangerous cross into the BCS box.  The cross was cleared directly to Marco, who burst from his own half deep into the Arsenal area.  As he was closed down by a centerback, he picked out Fran with a square ball.  The team's leading scorer stayed composed under pressure and slotted past the goalie to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

The lead didn't last long, with Arsenal taking advantage of some careless play to pick up a loose ball 35 yards out and fire in a long shot that snuck underneath the crossbar.  Maintaining their confidence, however, BCS responded right back.  Joe took a throw-in from the left side and found Darren in the 18.  He spun around his defender before firing a ball into the six-yard box.  A leaping Arsenal defender managed to get his head to the ball, but his efforts only served to flick the ball past his keeper, off the far post, and in.

With a 2-1 lead, BCS continued to grow in confidence.  Arsenal maintained the majority of possession and exploited space on the outside, but struggled to create any clear chances.  After snuffing out an Arsenal attack, Pete burst forward from his holding role before distributing the ball wide right.  He then received a pass at the top of the 18 with a defender on his back.  With one deft touch, he flicked the ball to the defender's left before spinning the opposite direction.  Clear in on goal but still with a tight angle, Pete then fired the ball home to extend the lead to 3-1, with a goal truly reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp.

Arsenal pressed hard for the remainder of the half, eventually cutting into the lead just two minutes before halftime.  Another wide ball off a counter-attack released an Arsenal midfielder, who cut inside the 18 and finished at the far post to make the halftime score 3-2 in favor of BCS.

The second half was played predominantly in the BCS half, but Arsenal continued to struggle to create clear chances.  Despite dominating possession, almost every attack resulted in a wide diagonal ball over the top.  Having switched to a flat-back four, the BCS centerbacks were now providing more cover to the fullbacks and seemed comfortable with the Arsenal threat.

BCS did threaten on counterattacks and set pieces.  After winning several corner kicks, BCS extended their lead to 4-2.  Fran got things started with a cross to the far post.  Darren headed back across the six, where Joe did enough to ensure that Arsenal's towering centerback couldn't get the clearance he wanted.  The ball bounced to Andy Hoot who, from 22 yards out, unleashed a vicious half volley just inside the far post, giving the Arsenal keeper no chance.

With only 15 minutes left, the BCS lead seemed safe.  After a cleared corner, however, the Arsenal left fullback controlled at the top of the 18 and fired in a bullet to make the score 4-3.  Arsenal continued to press and, with BCS struggling for energy and failing to maintain possession, equalized with five minutes left in regulation off another shot from distance.  The 90 minutes ended in a 4-4 deadlock.

The home team seemed energized for extra time, with their quality of play improving dramatically relative to the second half.  Some neat one-time passing resulted in several half-chances, while the defense and midfield looked much more composed.  With no clear chances for either team, however, the game seemed destined for PKs.  Then, in the 119th minute,  Joe delivered a moment of magic worthy of winning any match.

After receiving a pass 25 yards out, Joe tried to spin his defender but was chopped to the ground.  He lined up the free kick himself, eyeing up the five-man wall.  Opting for precision over power, he whipped the ball just over the wall and, with perfect placement, off the inside of the near post.  The Arsenal keeper made a despairing dive, but the shot bounced off his body and into the net.

The ninth goal was a dramatic end to a dramatic and tiring match, with both sides deserving full credit for their tenacity and competitive nature.  BCS wishes Arsenal the best of luck in their fight to remain in the first division, but looks forward to the possibility of a rematch in next year's Division 2.

In the semifinals, BCS will face Kendall Wanderers A, fresh off their 2-0 defeat of first-division powerhouse Mass Premier Soccer.  The other side of the bracket matches up First Wave and the winner of Blackbeard vs. Playwright FC.

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