American University's Mark DeBlois scored on a pass from Tom Tague midway through the second half yesterday to help the Eagles salvage a 1-1 tie with visiting Howard in a soccer showdown between the leading teams in the Capital Collegiate Conference.
Howard (8-2-1), which took the lead with 17 minutes left in the first half on a goal be Donnell Street, remains one point ahead of AU with a final 3-0-2 mark. American, unbeaten in 10 straight games, is 3-0-1 in the conference and 10-2-2 overall and must defeat George Mason Thursday in order to overtake Howard in the CCC standings.
American outshot Howard, 4-3, in the two overtime periods but Howard had the best scoring opportunity during that span. A direct kick by Howard's Errol Gillette eluded a diving Bill Ruvo, American's keeper, and bounded to Street at the left of the goal. The 15-yard shot by the Bison freshman was wide to the left.
Street's goal in regulation came when his indirect kick from 20 yards out glanced off Eagle fullback Scott Turner and past Ruvo, who could not recover in time.
"I misjudged it. I probably should have stayed back," said Ruvo.
American, plauged by injuries to key offensive personnel, did not let up often on defense against Howard's dangerous attack, led by Sylvanus Oriakhi, Ian Gage and Omo Esemuede. Eagles Scott Turner, Tague and sweeper Charlie Davis did their best to prevent Howard's smooth-passing lineup from putting on the finishing touch. Ironically, it was a succession of two Eagle injuries in the second half that led to the American goal.
When Turner left in the second half with a charley horse after 11 minutes and Eduardo Lopez, the Eagle playmaker at midfield, aggravated a knee injury less than 50 seconds later, American Coach Pete Melhert moved Tague to halfback to help the offense.
Less than five minutes later, Tague fielded a cross on right wing from Jim Piedmont and returned the ball in the middle to DeBlois, who slipped inside the heart of Howard's defense and squibbed the ball to the left corner of the Howard net.
"After we do so much pressing on offense we get into a little relaxation on defense because of the inactivity and that's it -- we gave away a goal," said Howard Coach Lincoln Phillips. "We knew they were going to be tough, but I think we had the run of the play and many more opportunities to score."