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IOWA CITY— As the sun set and wind died down, the tension between Class 3A third-ranked Iowa City West and Class 2A fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier reached a precipice.
Then, with 1:24 left in the second overtime, Xavier midfielder Thomas Bean struck. With the ball bouncing around just outside the right of the keeper’s box, he sent a shot past the outstretched hands of the Trojan’s Zachary Frisbie.
Almost as soon as the ball left his foot, Bean knew it was true and rushed to the sideline, toward a couple Xavier fans, his arms outstretched and his face contorted into a satisfied half-smile. Seconds later, his teammates were mobbing and he was lost in a sea of navy blue.
Xavier 2, Iowa City West 1.
“It’s second to none, really,” Bean said. “I ran, I felt it, and I put it away. Simple as that.”
This was a struggle of two soccer titans and while there won’t be any epics wrote about it, the back-and-forth nature of the game sure lends itself to a good story.
Less than a minute into the game, West forward Tai-Hee Choi found the back of the net in a free-for-all near the goal. The Trojans pushed the ball hard down the field in the opening minutes and the aggressiveness led to several shots on goal.
Xavier knew coming in that the Trojans like to get push the ball right after the whistle blows. They weren’t able to counter during Choi’s goal, but were able to stave off the assault to start the second and both of the overtime periods.
Bean also got the Saints other goal, a penalty kick with 21:19 left in the first.
“Thomas is very calm in those situations,” Xavier head coach Amir Hadzic said. “We were confident he could score.”
And so he did.
The talented midfielder had a chance to give the Saints the lead going into halftime, but sent a shot inches over the crossbar with a little over a minute left. Given a yellow card early in the game, Hadzic moved him to forward, in an effort to avoid any further cards caused by a tackle.
It worked out, though Bean was far from the only reason Xavier was able to leave the pitch with a win. The defense, especially Saints freshman keeper Owen McCarron were tremendous, frustrating the Trojan forwards throughout the game.
McCarron made a number of impressive saves, which led to some praise after the game by Hadzic.
“I didn’t know how well he’d preform in a big game like this,” Hadzic said. “But he was really outstanding today.”
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