by Ed Gonser
June 21, 2003 - USL First Division (USL-1)
Syracuse, N.Y.--Pucker Up! That's what the Syracuse Salty Dogs will be doing if the saying, "A tie is like kissing your sister," is true.
Playing its third game in a span of four nights the Salty Dogs had the chances, but couldn't find a way to finish, as they battled the Virginia Beach Mariners to a 0-0 tie in A-League soccer action at P&C Stadium Saturday.
The score may have been nil but the action was fast and furious on the field. The Mariners had an early chance on Dogs' goalie Paul Nagy but the fleet-footed Nagy made a sliding stop on a shot by Richard Mahoney in the 12th minute of play and kicked the scoring chance back toward midfield.
The game turned to the Salty Dogs defense led by captain Bennito Kemble. Kemble and Carlos Semedo kept Virginia Beach top strikers Dante Washington and Roy Lassiter at a safe distance away from Nagy and the Dogs' goal.
"I was very pleased that we were able to out play a team that is supposed to be the best team in the league," Syracuse head coach Laurie Calloway said. "We had played five games in eight days and Virginia Beach was fresh and hadn't played in a week. We had our chances but took too many touches in the box and gave their goalie (Joe Larson) an opportunity to make a save instead of burying him. It was a great defensive performance, possibly the best of the season for us."
"We had so many chances to score and didn't," Kemble said. "We dominated the game but our strikers weren't able to get the job done again tonight. We had the opportunities but we were unable to finish it off. We have to win these type of games that we dominate the play."
Syracuse lost a 1-0 game Friday to Toronto and weary by playing three games in the last 96 hours a bigger and more noticeable problem was the absence of the teams leading goal scorer Gabe Valencia. Valencia was hurt after scoring a goal in a win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
"I think Gabe would have had a goal tonight," Calloway said. "The other guys weren't up to (Gabe's ability) and didn't get the finishes and the job done. With Gabe in the game, he opens up a lot of opportunities for the other players and will nick one in himself as well. Injuries are part of the game and we'll have to get some more support from the guys who fill those roles in Gabe's absence."
"We are so tired playing three games in a row," the newest Salty Dog Rene Rivas said. Rivas, a midfielder from Brazil, is on loan to Syracuse from the Imortal Desportivo of the Portuguese Soccer Federation. "It was hard to find room to get into the box. The defense kept everything out to the side. We would have like to get the win but this is soccer and we had chances but couldn't capitalize on them."
Syracuse did have one golden opportunity as regulation wound down. Lars Lyssand was cruising down the right wing and could not get a tremendous header attempt squarely on net.
The weather played a factor in the outcome. A steady rain fell throughout the contest and the surface at Syracuse is Astroturf. "It was rough out here with the weather," Salty Dogs forward Noah Delgado said. "The ball skips, it's not what were used to and its not what (Virginia Beach) is used to so it's a whole new game. We battled and it came out a tie so what are you going to do."
They battled through two 10-minute overtimes and are accepting the tie as a good omen for the next task at hand, a road trip to Charleston next week.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central.