By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- There was much to like, and just as much not to like, for Strasburg boys soccer coach Joel Ross in Monday's game against visiting Madison County.
The Rams counterattacked with panache, producing a handful of excellent scoring chances that resulted in a pair of goals.
Madison County dominated possession for the most party, though, and broke through for two goals of its own to erase a daunting deficit.
That it ended up as a 2-2 tie was only fitting, perhaps, considering those pluses and minuses.
"It's always a pretty even matchup, but this year they just have a lot more skilled ballhandlers and a lot more of that on-the-ground passing game that I like to see," Ross said. "I really feel that both of us are in really, really similar situations."
Similar, in that both teams have a pair of dangerous playmakers headlining a largely young and blue-collar cast. Not surprisingly, both sets -- Strasburg's Nico Cavallini and Nathan Spencer, and the Mountaineers' Hayden Sealander and Daniel Richards -- played a significant goal in most of the scoring.
Cavallini, a foreign-exchange student from Switzerland, opened the scoring in the first half when popped free in the penalty box for a one-on-one look against Madison County goalkeeper Ben Landolt. Cavallini never got that shot, as he was taken down from behind before he could kick the ball. That did result in a penalty kick, and Cavallini converted the goal with a shot into the far left corner with 14:35 left in the first half.
Madison County (0-0-1) nearly tied it with 3:12 to go in the first half when Sealander launched a dangerous free kick toward the goal, but the ball hit the crossbar and caromed away.
Strasburg (1-1-1) struck again five minutes into the second half, as Cavallini found Spencer with a through ball. Streaking behind the Mountaineers' defense, Spencer did the rest by hitting a rising shot over Landolt's outstretched hand to put his team up 2-0.
"Nathan and I, we're fast and we can make these through balls," Cavallini said. "That's probably where I see our chances this season, with fast counterattacks, and with corner kicks and free kicks."
The Mountaineers ratcheted up the pressure after that, and seven minutes later finally broke through when Kevin Ramos chipped in a loose ball in the box off Sealander's corner kick.
Madison County tied it five minutes later when Joe Gentry headed a ball backwards in a crowd, and the shot slipped inside the left post.
"The most disappointing thing was that second goal they scored," Ross said. "We got disorganized in the back and it kind of bobbled around. Frankly, that happened a lot in the second half. We were unlucky on that goal, but there were other times when we got lucky."
Strasburg produced a trio of solid scoring chances over the last 20 minutes, as Cavallini had two stopped by Landolt. The Rams' Josue Medrano sent another on target, but Landolt made that save as well.
The Mountaineers nearly broke through in stoppage time when Sealander sent another treacherous free kick into the box, but Rams goalkeeper Mate Gergely (12 saves) saved that attempt and an equally dangerous follow by Madison's Ty Kemp.
"We have a lot of young players and they still have to learn," Cavallini said. "They have to get a certain amount of games to feel confident. We're starting four freshmen. That's a lot, but they get better and better with every single game."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>