Market Is Upset in 7-on-7 Soccer Semifinals

Tortorella Pools won out in penalty kicks
Ernesto Valverde, at left, shown in a game earlier in the season, was an ever-present attacker for the Maidstone Market in its semifinal clash on Aug. 1 with Tortorella Pools, a game that the latter team won in penalty kicks. Craig Macnaughton

Tortorella Pools and Hampton F.C.-Pool Shark were to have faced off at East Hampton’s Herrick Park last night for the Wednesday evening 7-on-7 spring championship. 

They became the finalists after winning semifinal clashes at the park on Aug. 1 — Hampton F.C. had a rather easy time of it in bageling Sag Harbor United 3-0, though the Tortorella-Maidstone game, tied at 2-2 after regulation, had to go to penalty kicks.

Maidstone, which is hard to beat when it is at full strength, won last spring’s championship, defeating Bateman Painting, and, likewise, won the fall trophy, defeating Hampton F.C. 3-1.

This time it was not to be as Tortorella’s shootout lineup of Nick Escalante, Eddy Juarez, Leonel Uchupaille, and David Rodriguez proved to be dominant, all but Uchupaille beating Maidstone’s goalie, Alex Mesa, from seven yards out. The Market’s only penalty kick scorer was Antonio Padilla. The attempts by Miguel Bautista, Angel Garces, and Mesa were foiled by Tortorella’s goalie, Craig Caiazca, who had a wonderful night.

Leslie Czeladko, Tortorella’s manager and the league’s spokesman, said in a website account afterward that Caiazca merited an M.V.P. award.

In the opening minutes, Tortorella’s Eddy Lopez caught Mesa flat-footed, booting the ball into the mostly open cage from within the penalty area.

Ernesto Valverde, who teamed with Xavi Piedramartel and Antonio Padilla on Maidstone’s front line, almost evened it up moments later, but Caiazca made a beautiful one-handed save of his blast.

With 10 minutes remaining in the 30-minute half, Lopez again came up big, banging a free kick in off the left post from about 15 yards out, which treated Tortorella to a 2-0 lead.

At the other end, Valverde continued to launch rockets, but Caiazca foiled him twice more before the half was to end. Tortorella’s keeper was high-fived by his teammates as they came off the field.

Maidstone went into the second without one of its starting defenders, Mathew Ramirez, who was red-carded after he’d remonstrated with the referee. 

The Market came right back when the second half began as Correa, who had sneaked in close at the right side, deposited a Valverde crossing pass into the left corner of the nets. Moments later, the Market struck again as Piedramartel slipped in behind Caiazca, whose attention was directed elsewhere, to boot home another crossing pass from Valverde. The score was 2-2 with 21 and a half minutes to play.

And yet neither team could score in the time remaining in regulation. Padilla came closest when, finding himself unmarked at the right side of Tortorella’s goal in the final minutes, he blew a chance to convert a Valverde pass.

With 14 seconds left on the clock, Escalante, who had been tripped, earned a free kick within good range, but, rather than let the play proceed, the referee let the clock run out before the free kick could be taken, a decision that drew protests from Tortorella players and fans.

Overtime periods were eschewed in favor of penalty kicks, which, as aforesaid, Tortorella’s kickers were to dominate, winding up with three goals to Maidstone’s one — and thus the victory.

Fittingly, Mesa and Caiazca faced off in what proved to be Maidstone’s last go, with the latter coming up with the save that advanced Tortorella to the final.

Hampton F.C. pretty much had its way in the first semifinal, blanking Sag Harbor United 3-0 thanks to goals by Juarez and Danny Bedoya (two).

Wilson Chavez played staunchly in Sag Harbor United’s goal. It would probably have been 6-0 otherwise.

Hampton F.C., as aforesaid, last appeared in a 7-on-7 final last December. It’s been a while since Tortorella has played in a 7-on-7 final.