A break in play that wouldn’t have existed in any year other than 2020 gave the Saratoga Springs boys’ soccer team a much-needed chance to reset just as things looked to be spiraling out of control.
The Blue Streaks had a two-goal lead at halftime of Tuesday’s Suburban Council boys’ soccer tournament quarterfinal against Guilderland, only for a pair of Illia Tyrkus goals six minutes apart to tie the game with 21:36 left in the second half.
Then, came the mask break.
Games all season have featured a mandated break around the midway point of each half, giving players a reprieve from wearing the facemasks that they’ve been wearing in games played during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ninety-seven seconds after Tyrkus’ second goal tied things up, both teams headed to the bench for the break, and Saratoga Springs took the pause to reestablish focus.
“The timeouts kind of worked out in our favor,” Saratoga Springs coach Jeff Geller said. “We were able to tell them to calm down, we changed our personnel a little bit and we were able to take back control of the game.”
Ten minutes after the break, Garrett Farr rose up at the back post to head home a Jack Donnelly cross, which stood up as the winner as the fourth-seeded Blue Streaks pulled out a 3-2 victory on home turf to set up a semifinal Thursday on the road against No. 1 seed Shenendehowa.
Evan Hallett scored both first-half goals for Saratoga Springs (No. 4, 8-2-3), which heads into the semifinals having won four of its last five games. The only loss during that stretch was a 2-0 setback Nov. 6 against Shenendehowa.
The two goals by Hallett — the first set up by a through-ball from Farr, the second a curling effort off the post teed up by a short corner kick — gave Saratoga Springs a seemingly comfortable advantage at the half, but when Tyrkus provided a major spark early in the second half, it made the Blue Streaks wary of a Guilderland team that made a similar second-half comeback last Friday to snag a wild 3-2 win over CBA.
“It was pretty scary,” Hallett said.
After being denied by Saratoga Springs goalie Tyler Munter on a few stellar chances in the first half, Tyrkus scored a pair of electric goals to get Guilderland back in the game.
“I thought we played poorly in the first half, but we still had three solid opportunities that, normally, you’d come out with one of those,” Guilderland (No. 5, 6-5-2) coach Michael Kinnally said. “In the second half, I think we played much more of the style that we play. We worked a little bit harder.”
A little time to reset after Tyrkus’ second goal — a beauty set up by a terrific volleyed layoff pass by Quinn Tynan — set Saratoga Springs up for the final charge.
That paid off when Farr rose to meet Donnelly’s cross at the back post for the go-ahead marker.
“We just played through it,” Farr said. “We had a few mistakes that let them back in it, but we just kept going and it paid off in a win.”
Halftime score: Saratoga Springs led 2-0. Guilderland scoring: Tyrkus 2-0, Knapp 0-1, Tynan 0-1. Saratoga Springs scoring: Hallett 2-0, Farr 1-1, Donnelly 0-2. Goalies: Guilderland, Schultz, 5 saves. Saratoga Springs, Munter, 6 saves.