In a battle of two WPIAL Class 3A periennial boys soccer contenders, Moon Township defated Franklin Regional, 3-2, at Pine-Richland Stadium in the JRK Memorial Classic on Sunday afternoon.
University of Akron commit Ryan Kopay scored twice and Ryan Hildenbrand added an early second half tally which to lift the Tigers in a back-and-forth battle with the Panthers. Franklin Regional’s Billy Christafano scored both goals for the Panthers.
In the 5th minute, Kopay was fed a nice pass from right corner after Moon’s high pressure led to a giveaway. Kopay then took one touch before delivering a clever shot with his outside right foot placing it into the left side of goal to beat Franklin Regional’s keeper, Noah Walker.
The Panthers responded by sticking to their game plan to build-up its attack through the middle as new head coach, Lukas Petersen has been working with his team to become a solid possession unit.
In the 15th minute, the Panthers connected the dots with one-two touch passing, with a positive end result coming when Danny Christafano played a thru ball for his older brother Billy Christafano, who slipped behind his closest defender to get into space in the box.
The elder Christafano slid a shot past a diving Moon keeper Zachary Shutak just inside the right post to equalize the match.
Petersen praised the combination play that led to the goal, and chemistry between the siblings.
“Very happy with that first goal,” Petersen said. “Couple of passes through the midfield which led to a nice pass over to the top and a fine finish from Billy. It was a brilliant pass from Danny. I like their connection and hopefully they’ll do more of that this year.”
Moon continued to work to try to punish Franklin Regional for trying to play it out of the back.
Again, it was Kopay, in the 24th minute, who made a play on an errant pass, then found room to get into the box to deliver a clinical finish that gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead that held up through the end of the half.
“We wanted to make them play it out of the back,” Kopay said. “I read the pass, then got into 1-v-1 opportunity and took it from there.”
Moon continued to add pressure, putting Franklin Regional on its heels for the remainder of the first half.
“Unfortunately our team shape fell apart,” Petersen said. “IT’s something we’ll have to work on, we’ll have to get better as the season goes on.”
Franklin’s Noah Walker made two outstanding saves that kept the match close in the first half, denying Kopay’s third quality chance on frame
The Tigers continued to press, and another goal came when Ryan Hildenbrand scored in the 45th minute for what appeared to be a commanding lead.
Trailing by two goals, the Panthers responded immediately, as they stepped up the pressure with Billy Christafano taking advantage of space in the box, then slotting home his chance to cut the lead to 3-2.
“We worked the sides, and got in behind the defense,” Petersen added.
While both teams looked to turn the tables of the match with another goal, in the 70th minute, the Panthers drew a foul in the box to generate a penalty kick scoring opportunity.
The Panthers’ senior midfielder Colton Hudson stepped up to take the penalty, sending a low shot to the left side of goal.
Moon goalkeeper Zach Shutak anticipated correctly by going to his right and sprawling to the ground to make the clutch save to preserve his team’s one-goal lead.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) August 28, 2022
“I just used my technique, and was there to make the save,” Shutak said after the match.
“Proud of our boys,” Petersen added. “We gave up two first half, unfortunate goals. But I am really happy with how we responded in the second half. Especially with a pen there near the end of the game.”