Nothing worked offensively for Free State High’s boys soccer team in the second half Thursday night against Olathe South.
Passes didn’t connect. Shots nearly became extinct. And somehow it didn’t matter.
A brilliant defensive effort from the Firebirds for the full 80 minutes and an opportunistic goal off the foot of sophomore Eduardo Carballido midway through the first half rendered the second-half drought inconsequential in a 1-0 FSHS victory at Free State.
The Falcons (7-5-1) sent a storm of shots toward Free State’s goal, but junior goalkeeper Tyler Bryant stymied them time after time, finishing with 13 saves before a collision in the 71st minute forced him to leave the game.
In the final minutes, O-South took four more shots, putting three on goal, but backup goalie Kyle Vogelsang and the FSHS defense maintained the shutout on a night the Falcons amassed 18 shots on goal and sent 11 more off the mark.
“It really sets a new standard for us,” Bryant said after the team’s third shutout of the season. “It shows us that we can step up to the plate, and we can definitely dominate any game, any team we’re going up against.”
Free State (5-8-1) only took six shots, and O-South keeper Nick Riggle saved four of them. The senior goalie didn’t stand a chance against Carballido’s strike, though. In the 19th minute, the sophomore Firebirds forward realized he had a small window from roughly 30 yards out on the right side.
The shot floated into the upper-left corner for a score.
“I got the ball, and nobody came to me, so I look up to see where the goalie was standing,” Carballido said. “I just took the shot and believed in myself to see what could happen. I got a goal, and I’m really happy to help the team.”
FSHS coach Kelly Barah said Riggle typically kept close to the near post on the rare occasions the Firebirds mounted attacks, and that was the case on Carballido’s goal.
“Eduardo was able to exploit that a little bit,” the coach said of the keeper’s positioning.
From that point on, Free State’s offense virtually disappeared. So Carballido knew his goal wasn’t what won the game.
“We played perfect defense,” he said.
During the offensive funk, various Firebirds did their part on the other half of the field by cutting off passes, clearing the ball out of the box or just making the Falcons earn their chances. Seniors Nick Pippert and Alex Trent, juniors Brogan Ryan and Buzz Walter and sophomores Will Laufer and Jordan Patrick all found ways to muddle the O-South attack.
The most critical defensive sequence came in the 71st minute. Bryant went to the turf to cover up a ball in front of the goal, and another player hit the back of his head, which allowed the ball to leave the keeper’s grasp.
“I got up and saw the play was still going, so I figured I might as well go and try to play,” Bryant said afterward, adding that he would have to visit a doctor to get his head checked out. “Then things started swirling around.”
At that moment, the goalie faintly heard Trent yelling for him to sit down, but Bryant waited until the ball got cleared to do so because he didn’t want O-South to score. Finally, he lay on his back on the goal line as play continued.
O-South then won possession and fired a shot at an essentially open net, but Trent headed the ball away to save his fallen teammate.
“I was really thankful,” Bryant said, “because I’m not sure I would’ve been able to get that.”
FSHS will play Monday at Mill Valley.