MERIDEN - Marco Marino did not want to spend the next 24 hours pondering missed chances.
The Berlin boys soccer junior had just missed two open shots during Thursday afternoon’s game against Platt, and late in the second half with the Redcoats trailing by a goal, those missed opportunities may have proven to be the deciding factor in a frustrating loss.
Instead, Marino found redemption in the form of a dramatic game-tying goal.
After closing to within 3-2 in what had been a 3-0 deficit in the first half, Berlin escaped with a 3-3 tie thanks to Marino, who finally came through with 1:45 left to play after Berlin held the zone following a corner kick. Marino absorbed contact in front of the net, got back to his feet and launched a shot just beneath the crossbar to complete the comeback and tie the game at three, getting the Redcoats (1-7-3) a point heading into Friday’s rematch with the Panthers at Sage Park.
“It was a great feeling to tie it up,” Marino said. “I was extremely frustrated and I was starting to get down on myself, but it was good that I was able to make up for it.”
Marino’s goal was the completion of a massive turnaround for Berlin, which fell behind in the opening 90 seconds of play and trailed 3-0 late in the first half before finding its stride down the stretch to avoid a second straight loss.
“We started kind of flat and we definitely picked up our intensity,” Redcoats head coach Sal Parafati said. “We challenged and made those adjustments. I made some adjustments in the midfield and the back, and it worked out.”
The team’s intensity increased with 13 minutes left in the first half, when the Redcoats finally got on the board when Colby Nardelli tapped a pass back to senior Ethan Neumann, who ripped a shot past Platt goalkeeper Nicholas Link to send Berlin into the halftime break with a sense of optimism after initially trailing 3-0.
The Redcoats made sure their momentum was sustained to start the second half, getting another goal on the board just two minutes into the second half.
Neumann generated another scoring chance for himself in front of the net and drew a hard foul to set up a free kick, but Neuman, who injured his hand on the play and had to come out of the game, was unable to take the free kick. That duty was passed onto Nardelli, who fired a shot from 25 yards out that banged off the bottom half of the crossbar and ricocheted straight down in front of the goal line. An alert and hustling Adan Kozubal charged the net and headed the rebound into the back of the net off one bounce to cut the deficit to one.
“It was all our mindset and how we approached the second half,” Marino said. “We were all over the place in the first 30 minutes, and we weren’t focused. But we came out in the second half strong.”
After just missing a quality chance in the first half, Marino flirted with the equalizing goal midway through the second half when a throw-in and a through ball led to a breakaway opportunity, but Marino, with just the goalkeeper Link to beat, sent a shot that rolled just wide of the post. With 15 minutes left in the game, Marino had another chance from a sharp angle, but it was turned aside by a sliding Link, who deflected the shot out of play.
Link continued to keep the Panthers in front when Nardelli set up for another free kick, but his shot was tipped by a leaping Link and deflected off the crossbar.
Fortunately, Marino ended his frustrating stretch of close calls by burying the tying goal with less than two minutes to go.
“He missed a couple gimmes, but he kept his head up and responded,” Parafati said. “That was huge to score that goal with a couple minutes left.”
Marino nearly helped Berlin get out of Meriden with an improbable victory when he broke toward the net and drew a foul from just over 20 yards out with 25 seconds left on the clock. The Redcoats quickly set up for the dramatic free kick, but Nardelli’s shot toward the near post was snagged out of midair by Link, preserving the 3-3 tie.
Perhaps Marino’s better chance came back in the first half, when he fielded a through ball from Kozubal and beat an aggressive Link, who charged out of the net to try and disrupt the chance, but as Marino sent a shot toward the wide open net, Platt defender Michael Urban slid in front and deflected the ball wide. It was Berlin’s best chance through the first 30 minutes of play, though the Redcoats came out of the break looking like a different team to avoid a frustrating loss.
“It would have been amazing [to get a win], but we do get to play them tomorrow,” Parafati said. “If we show up with the intensity we had in the second half, good things will happen.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BERLIN 3, PLATT 3
Halftime: Platt 3-1.
Goals: Alex Rocha (P), Casey Rintharamy (P), Elian Nava (P), Marco Marino (B), Ethan Naumann (B), Adam Kozubal (B).
Assists: Justin Bennet (P), Colby Nardelli (B).
Records: Berlin 1-7-3, Platt 2-8-1.