Viera, Melbourne boys soccer showdown ends in 1-1 tie
Viera High's Patrick Murtha (left) gets his he head on the ball during Wednesday night's district showdown against Melbourne. Murtha scored on a penalty kick and the Hawks and Bulldogs tied 1-1.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Whenever the Viera High and Melbourne boys soccer teams get together, you know it’s going to be a good, physical, hard-fought game.
And that was certainly the case Wednesday night when the two district rivals played to a 1-1 tie at Hawk Stadium.
Melbourne’s Christian Watts scored off a corner kick in the game’s ninth minute to give the Bulldogs (12-3-1) an early lead. The Hawks (11-1-1) would tie the game just before the midway point of the first half on a penalty kick by Patrick Murtha.
“I thought we had kind of a shaky first 20 minutes of the game,” Viera coach Nick Robinson said. “The boys needed to find their feet a little bit. I thought the first 20-25 minutes of the second half, they did that.
“We started to play the way that we wanted to play, started to break them down a little bit and create some chances. Was it enough to win the game? Maybe, maybe not.
“It could have gone either way … 1-1, given the chances, probably a fair result on the night.”
Melbourne certainly had its chances in the second half, particularly off of free kicks. Two Melbourne shots hit off the crossbar and another was denied when Viera goalkeeper Andrew Sanger went up high to tip the ball over the net.
“He’s had a couple of good performances lately,” Robinson said of Sanger. “He’s coming off two clean sheets (shutouts). I think he’ll be pretty disappointed to concede the set piece the way we did, especially in the first 15 minutes of the game.
“We pride ourselves on set pieces. I don’t think we’d conceded a set piece all year. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
How Wednesday’s result will affect the seedings for the Class 6A, District 12 tournament – which begins at the end of the month -- remains to be seen.
MaxPreps had Melbourne ranked No. 55 in the state Thursday morning, while Viera was ranked No. 66. That would likely mean the Bulldogs will be the top seed with Viera No. 2 for the tournament, which will be played at Melbourne.
“We’ll go by the MaxPreps rankings,” Robinson said. “This, obviously won’t change it a whole lot. Harmony (8-1-4, No. 107) plays Melbourne Friday night, which will still count toward the district seeding.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Melbourne has won eight straight district championships. Last year, the Hawks beat the Bulldogs in the regular season only to lose in the district title game on penalty kicks.
That has fueled the Hawks ever since and after Wednesday night’s game, it’s not hard to imagine the two teams meeting for the district title one more time.
“We’re right there. We’re very close to where we need to be,” Robinson said. “I think we’ve just got to make sure we’re ready for the first second (of the game). I don’t think we were as focused and engaged into the game from the first minute.
“… I’m proud of the boys tonight. We went 1-0 down, showed some resilience and fought back. I’m confident, based on our last 40-50 minutes of the game, that no matter who is in there, how many injuries we have, we’re going to be able to, hopefully, go all the way.”