Fightin’ Fifth wins final regular-season match
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
MEDDAC goalkeeper K.C. Harris slides to kick the ball away from 5th Engr. Bn. forward Eric Arriola, right, late in the second half of their May 9 match on Field 2. Arriola scored four goals in his teams’ 5-1 victory over MEDDAC in the final regular-season match of the year.

Soccer teams get ready for Commander’s Cup tourney

Story and photos by Matt Decker
Assistant editor
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The 5th Engineer Battalion won Fort Leonard Wood’s final regular-season intramural soccer match of 2017, earning a 5-1 victory over the Medical Department Activity May 9 on Field 2.

“I felt we played like a team, and we played really good,” said 5th Engr. Bn. forward Eric Arriola, who ended the game with four goals.

With each team walking onto the field with a season record of 4-1, the match was a contest for second place in the standings and a bye in the first round of the 2017 Commander’s Cup Soccer Tournament.

Salia Sonie, MEDDAC, uses his chest to pass the ball to a teammate in the first half against the 5th Engr. Bn. May 9.
Arriola scored his first goal five minutes into the first half, taking a shot from about 25 yards out.

The Fightin’ Fifth had two more shots on goal before MEDDAC had its first scoring attempt at the 10-minute mark on penalty kick — but that shot went wide.

The 5th Engr. Bn. kept the pressure up with three more shots on goal before Arriola scored his second goal of the match as the first half drew to a close. He scored again less than a minute into the second half with a header off a  throw-in.

At that point, MEDDAC turned up the heat on its offense, with midfielder Marian Niemotko and forwards Elhadjmakan Kaba and Salia Sonie taking multiple shots over a 15-minute span that also saw 5th Engr. Bn. goalkeeper Christopher Lawless make three stops. Niemotko scored for MEDDAC to make it a 3-1 match with about eight minutes remaining.

With five minutes left, 5th Engr. Bn. midfielder Josh Bardell charged the net and scored after colliding with MEDDAC goalkeeper K.C. Harris and another player a split-second after making his shot.

Arriola scored the final goal of the match with about a minute remaining.

“This was a tougher  competition, but I felt our team was a complete team. We came out strong from the beginning. My midfielders, and the defense sending me long balls, that’s what really helped me out and helped me score the goals,” Arriola said after the game.

However, he said it was his team’s defense that made the difference.

From left, MEDDAC midfilder Marian Niemotko, 5th Engr. Bn. midfielder Matt Gray and MEDDAC midfielder Christian Hurtado compete for possession of the ball in the second half.
“I really have to thank the defense, though,” he said. “The defense really did its job.”

With the regular season over, teams turned their attention to the Commander’s Cup tournament.

Rob Steinmacher, with the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports Department, said the match was a fitting end to a season that began in March.

“Overall, the soccer season has gone well,” Steinmacher said. “We started the season with seven teams, and we did have one drop out. We have six strong teams that have qualified for the tournament; they’re all fairly competitive and their competition level is high.”

Tournament play began Monday night and was scheduled to conclude Wednesday evening. (See next week’s GUIDON for full coverage of the tournament final).

The U.S. Marine Det., which went undefeated to take first place in the regular season with a record of 6-0, had a bye in the first round. With its victory against MEDDAC, the 5th Engr. Bn. also earned a bye and a second-place finish in the standings with a record of 5-1.

Despite the loss, MEDDAC finished with a successful season, taking third overall with a record of 4-2. When interviewed before the match May 9, MEDDAC team captain Christian Hurtado said his team relied on both its diversity and commitment to teamwork.

“Definitely, the integration of players from different countries and how they all pass the ball and don’t play individually is a strength for us,” Hurtado said. “We try to practice about two to three times per week, and we don’t always get to practice together, since we have different players on different schedules. But when we get together and play, it’s like we are all from the same country.”

Hurtado said MEDDAC will need to focus on consistency and athleticism heading into the tournament.

“I believe we’re going to have to do some more cardio,” he said. “MEDDAC does that well, anyway, but the units like the engineers, the Marines and the MPs do that all the time.”

When asked about the Fightin’ Fifth’s preparations for the tournament, Arriola said his team was “going to have to play like we played” against MEDDAC.

“We are going to face some really good teams, like the Marine Corps. But I think we are capable of coming out on top,” he said.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 June 2017 )