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Set pieces off the foot of Kaiden Fischer lead South Park past Shaler, 2-0

South Park boys soccer team capped a successful weekend by defeating Shaler, 2-0, in the JRK Memorial Classic at Pine-Richland Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Despite Shaler’s gritty work in the defensive third, which limited South Park’s chances in the run of play, the Eagles scored twice on set pieces off the foot of senior midfielder Kaiden Fischer, while goalkeeper Cooper Hochendoner came up with a pair of dynamic saves that secured his second clean sheet of the early season.

Both wins over the weekend for Class 2A South Park (2-0-0), came against teams from higher classifications, as they also defeated Class 3A Penn-Trafford, 4-0 on Saturday.

“Have to be pleased. As coaches, we’re always looking for perfection, and looking for things to improve upon, but we had a win vs 3A team, and now one against a 4A team, I have to be happy with that,” South Park’s Head Coach Jonathan Cantwell said.

“I saw some really good moments, building up and getting forward. I told the boys at the end, one of the things I thought we did really well was protect the lead. You can’t really replicate that.”

The Eagles struck early, in the 13th minute of the match after bringing early pressure, when they set up a free kick from the right sideline area.

Fischer, who earned Section Player of the Year, All-Section, All-WPIAL and All-State honors a year ago, flexed his playmaking abilities on his first set piece chance of the match, playing a short, lofted ball to the outside shoulder and foot of senior forward Jack Ozimek, who he caught in stride getting past a Shaler defender.

Ozimek delivered a one-time right-footed shot off pass from Fischer to give South Park the 1-0 lead.

For the rest of the first half, and into the midway point of the second half, Shaler continued to concede possession to South Park, who played efficiently through the middle.

The Titans showed plenty of resolve in defending in the box, and as the match grew, started to pick spots to counter and find some attacking moments.

“In terms of keeping our shape. Doing the hard things, the gritty work, limiting some of the chances they had, we shut them down,” Shaler Head Coach Tyler Schulz said,

In fact, Shaler pressed forward with two grand chances despite being out-possessed and under pressure for stretches.

In the 61st minute, Hochendoner denied Matt Keenan’s dangerous strike from distance, then on an ensuring corner kick chance for the Titans, was forced into a quick reaction punch away of a Keenan header chance that nearly found its way under the crossbar.

“Whether it was a bounce away, or a ball away, our keeper (Hochendoner) came up with a couple of big saves,” Cantwell said.

“One off the run of play, and another off a corner, that helped us find that opportunity to get the next one.”

Ed Thompson Photo Gallery — South Park vs Shaler 

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Moments later, in the 74th minute, with South Park pressing forward into space, Fischer was fouled 25 yards out, setting up a free kick chance from a straightaway position.

With a little deception and step overs intended to throw off Shaler defenders, Fischer stepped into the ball and hit a perfectly placed shot into the upper left corner of goal.

“Second half movement was better,” Cantwell pointed out about his team’s ability to create more chances.

“We didn’t do enough in the first half to do anything to combine, to play through the middle. We took the easy stuff that Shaler was giving us.  But in the second half, even if we weren’t always successful, other parts of the field started to open up. It led to more opportunities, and in particular, that’s where the foul on Kaiden came from.”

Cantwell added: “Credit to Shaler, they didn’t let us get that second one until late.”

While disappointed with the result, Schulz saw plenty of positives for his squad over the weekend at the JRK Classic, where they got a result vs defending Class 1A champion Winchester Thurston on Saturday.

“We have a very young team. Had one freshman, some sophomores out there. We want to build on this weekend. We hope to compete in a really tough section.  This gives us a good chance to see what we have against good competition.”

Cantwell and Schulz, and their respective teams now turn to section competition, which starts this coming Tuesday.

South Park, in particular, have been knocking at the door as a high seed and a perennial section champion, but they’ve come short of making it to the WPIAL Finals in recent years.

With a positive start to the season at the JRK Memorial Classic, South Park showed they could be a legit contender in Class 2A once again.

“There could be five or six teams that I could see lifting the trophy (in Class 2A),” Cantwell said, then chuckled.

“I just hope it us.”

PSN Post Match Interview

South Park’s Jon Cantwell

Shaler’s Tyler Schulz

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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