For second straight year, GCC downs short-handed Springdale in Class A semifinals

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 | 9:27 PM

Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said he wanted his team to “be careful on defense” heading into Wednesday night’s WPIAL Class A semifinal boys soccer game against top-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic at Norwin.

Sanchez knows how fragile opportunities can be this deep in the playoffs, and how things like ill-advised fouls and momentum-swinging calls can cost teams.

The veteran coach can speak from experience.

Greensburg Central Catholic capitalized on two big fouls in the first half and did just enough offensively to get past No. 5 Springdale, 2-0, to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.

Senior defender Seth Skowronek scored twice for the defending champion Centurions (14-1), who will play No. 2 Winchester Thurston (14-1) for the title at 3 p.m. Saturday at Gateway.

GCC, which survived a tight quarterfinal against scrappy Eden Christian for a 1-0 win, played with a man advantage from the 15:41 mark of the first half on after Springdale (12-2) had a player ejected for the second year in a row in the semis.

Senior fullback Roman Liberati was red-carded after an aggressive play on GCC’s Carlo Denis. Liberati apparently said something after the whistle, to the referee’s dislike, in the 25th minute.

It was “Here we go again” for Springdale, which has been eliminated in the semis by the Centurions two years in a row while playing a man down.

The same thing happened last year against the Centurions when Sammy Rzeszotarski was flagged for a dangerous tackle on Max Szekely, and that red card left the Dynamos swimming upstream the rest of the semifinal match at Hampton.

“The one thing that I had the boys really focus on was making sure we were in our game plan,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “No matter what they were playing, if there was stuff being said, we were only going to focus on what we could control.

“The red card changed the whole dynamic of the game. Having an extra player at that point … we were more upset with ourselves we didn’t get more goals that first half.”

Springdale, playing in the semifinals for the fourth straight season, lost twice to GCC in last year’s postseason — 4-2 in the semifinals, and 1-0 in the PIAA first round — so the Dynamos figured they owed the Centurions a measure of revenge.

Despite a number of quality offensive chances, the Dynamos could not overcome the damage done by the fouls.

“It’s very disappointing for the kids,” Sanchez said. “There were a couple of calls that probably should have been PKs for us but weren’t called. We deserved those PKs. It’s really tough to play your game with 10 men.”

Denis, a shifty sophomore forward who was active from the kickoff, drew a foul in the box in the 19th minute. Skowronek lined up the penalty kick and scooted it past Dynamos’ junior keeper Andrew Haus to give the Centurions a 1-0 lead.

“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Skowronek said. “We just wanted to keep playing hard and move the ball because we had the man-advantage. We worked hard together and capitalized on opportunities.”

Denis, who moved to the wing for the first time this season, said Liberati was ejected over something he said.

“He pushed me down then he said a bad word and the ref carded him,” said Denis, who has 31 goals this season. “It was a big motivation for us when we scored the first goal.”

GCC finally added a second goal, in the 61st minute, when Skowronek wound up with the ball on his foot after a corner kick. The ball bounced around in front of the cage before Skowronek delivered past Haus to make it 2-0.

The rest came down to the defense.

“It got a little chippy at the end,” Solis said. “As we moved the ball, our forwards did a really good job holding it up for us. We just continued to grind. Seth probably won 20 balls in the midfield today. No other person I’d rather see get two goals like that. Absolute team player.”

Haus made 10 saves for the Dynamos, who tried to create wide scoring chances and nearly scored on a couple of through balls.

GCC junior keeper Max House had six saves.

“Losing our stopper was big,” Sanchez said. “They moved the ball well. It’s just so hard to win when it’s 10 on 11.”

Springdale’s season is finished because the WPIAL is only sending its district champions to the PIAA playoffs.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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