After his team spotted T.C. Williams a two-goal lead within the first four minutes of Thursday’s boy’s soccer contest, Lake Braddock Coach Joe Soos took his team outside the Titans’ stadium at halftime and instructed them to sit on a run-down hill behind the bleachers.
“We were really calm at halftime,” Soos said. “It was really more of a mental adjustment.”
Playing its third game in four days — in muggy 85-degree heat — Soos’s squad looked sluggish at best in the first half Thursday.
But the second-ranked Bruins were stubborn in the second, creating opportunities and controlling the possession to push the game to overtime and salvage a 2-2 tie against No. 5 T.C. Williams in a key AAA Patriot District affair in Alexandria.
Thursday was the second time in four days that Lake Braddock went to overtime against a top-five opponent, but unlike Monday night’s wild 3-3 draw against No. 1 Oakton, the Bruins (4-0-3) had to scrap just to keep up against the upstart Titans (4-0-2). T.C. Williams sophomore Eryk Williamson got behind the Lake Braddock defensive zone and roped a 15-yard goal into the lower right pocket of the net 40 seconds into the game. Two minutes later, Williamson then made it 2-0 after gently dropping a direct kick into the goal from about 20 yards out, following a Lake Braddock hand-ball violation.
“It looked like they weren’t ready for anything,” Williamson said.
The roles reversed in the second half. The recovery time at the half seemed to re-energize Lake Braddock, which cut the deficit to 2-1 off an Akram Bensalem goal in the 41st minute. Soos called it “sustained pressure,” by his team, predicting that it had “at least 15 opportunities to score on either corners, direct kicks, throw-ins. It’s probably more like 30,” he said.
In the 65th minute one of those chances came through for the Bruins. A Zack Hopkins throw-in put the ball in play right in front of the net, and T.C. Williams’s goalkeeper misjudged the throw and knocked the ball into the Titans’ goal to knot the score at two.
T.C. Williams, which hadn’t played a game in a week coming into Thursday, received its best chance to score the equalizer off another Williamson direct kick with about four minutes remaining. But the sophomore’s offering sailed just above the crossbar from about 30 yards out, and the Titans were forced to swallow a bittersweet conclusion to a game that had such a promising start.
“I feel like we came out pretty strongly,” Williamson said. “Just let up. Everyone lost energy. Just have to keep going the whole 80 minutes, and not take a rest at all.”