NORCROSS — Clinging to a one-goal lead in the second half at home in the opening round of the Class A boys soccer playoffs, Wesleyan couldn’t find a way to punch in another goal and breathe a little easier down the stretch.
That proved to be a fatal mistake as Riverside Military Academy rallied for two goals in a five-minute span late in the second half and knocked off Wesleyan 2-1 at Henderson Stadium.
Riverside (8-7-1) moves on to the second round for a game at Brookstone.
For Wesleyan, which finishes its season at 10-9-0, it was a tough way to close out the campaign, but a worse way to finish the game.
Everything started out fine for Wesleyan, opening the scoring at 21:45 of the first half on a goal by Cole Warren as he picked up a deflection off Riverside goal keeper Victor Salcido to put the Wolves on top.
But that would be it for Wesleyan, which put pressure on Riverside with 17 total shots and 13 of those on goal.
However, Salcido was solid in goal for the Eagles, who stayed close and found a way to get the victory on the road. Not only did the junior goalkeeper make key saves, his ability to kick and throw the ball deep down field took the pressure off the Riverside defense time and time again.
That eventually turned the field over to the Riverside offense, which finally broke through with 14:47 left in the game when Ricardo Madero picked up a loose ball in front of the Wesleyan goal and knocked it home for a 1-1 tie.
Then Riverside used that momentum to take a 2-1 lead with 10:16 remaining on a goal by Oliseabuka Madichie. The sophomore was set up beautifully by teammate Chandler McCoy, who won a 50-50 ball and passed back to Madichie for the eventual game-winner.
“We talk about having heart and having confidence to play,” said Riverside head coach Diego Vacca. “Sometimes you can’t measure that and you have to show that you can play with anyone by just having the heart to go out and play hard. That’s what we did.”
Wesleyan desperately tried to rally in the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t come up with another goal to send the game into overtime. And that was disappointing for Wolves’ head coach Billy Coxhead.
“I did not feel like a one-goal was safe at anytime during the game,” said Coxhead. “They had a person (Salcido) who could throw the ball a long way and his punts were dangerous. They also had good counter-attacks and we haven’t particularly defended those well all year.
“And I think that may be the best goalie we’ve faced all year, so I knew it was going to be tough to score. We started to press a little bit after they scored to tie, but give Riverside credit and they deserved to win.”