Taking 18 months off from competitive soccer is bound to have some effects on an athlete a team. That was the case for the Columbus Eagles prior to the team’s opening match of their Premier Arena Soccer League season. Through standout goalkeeping and a Columbus side that wouldn’t quit, the Eagles picked up a point in a 6-6 draw against the Cincinnati Sirens.
Coach Mark Wise went with a starting six full of veterans with Lauren Demarchi and Susan D’Isidoro as the only Eagle rookies in the initial lineup. Starting alongside them was Monique Reventlow in the defensive backfield, Amberly Knox and captain Ashley Gogolin in the midfield and Madison Costner at forward.
Layoff rust was evident in the first quarter. Cincinnati pressed early and caused any Columbus possession to be short-lived. The Sirens forced multiple turnovers and got multiple shots on target. Goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi made multiple big saves to keep the match even through the first quarter. Demarchi’s quarter helped the Eagles find their form and start connecting as a team.
Even with a stronger showing at the start of the second, the Sirens were able to finally get one past the stellar Columbus keeper. Soon after, Cincinnati doubled their lead.
Wise rotated players out often, allowing all 11 on the roster to get minutes. Two sets of fresh legs came from Alivia Milesky and Deijah Swihart. The veteran Eagle Milesky had not one, but two, assists to the rookie Swihart to bring Columbus back even going into the half.
The Eagles had a lot of momentum as the third quarter began, but Cincinnati wasn’t having any of it and was able to score within the first minute of the second half. Columbus didn’t lack for chances, but the Sirens goalkeeper who was substituted at half, made multiple saves for Cincinnati. Milesky tried following up her two first half assists with a goal but was off the mark, luckily for the Eagles, Costner was on the end of the rebound and equalized the score again for Columbus.
Less a minute after the Costner goal, it looked like the floodgates opened for Cincinnati. It began with a rare error by Demarchi, with the Sirens slipping a shot between her and the wall to go up 4-3. Columbus’ rivals controlled the end of the third quarter and were able to put in a top-corner goal before the start of the fourth quarter.
In the final 15 minutes of the contest, there were a total of four goals. The first came from the Sirens. It came off what looked like a fingertip diving save by Demarchi. The deflection bounced off the wall and was buried in the back of the net. At that point, Columbus was down 6-3 and Cincinnati switched to possession mode.
Arena soccer is a fast-paced game, but the Sirens were content with slowing it down as much as they could in the last 12 minutes. Columbus started pushing forward, which left them open to a Siren counterattack. Demarchi’s first quarter saves came back in the fourth, keeping Columbus’ chance at reversing the score in their favor. A large chunk of the lead went away within two minutes, as Knox and Milesky both scored. Milesky ended the match with two assists and a goal.
The final five minutes began with a huge defensive stop by Reventlow. Cincinnati had numbers on offense and the Eagle regular got between a Siren and her keeper to deflect a shot. Without that save, Cincinnati had the chance to increase the lead to two. Instead, three minutes later rookie starter, and local Ohio Dominican grad, scored the equalizing goal with less than two minutes remaining.
Columbus continued to attack until the final whistle but weren’t able to completely flip the final score.
One area where the Eagles can improve is keeping possession of the ball. Cincinnati pressed heavily any time that a Columbus player got possession in the midfield. Some of these turnovers in play were because of catching the ball at the wrong angle, or stumbling to receive a pass, but a lot of that can be chalked up to how long it’s been since the Eagles have seen the field. Even though Cincinnati has had only one game under their belts this PASL season, the extra time in a competitive match can go a long way.
The Eagles can improve in instances where the pressure leads to forced passes into congested areas. More off the ball movement, and getting into open positions, could lead to higher possession and more comfortable passes in the midfield. Sometimes, in the indoor game, it can be difficult because the players are substituting during the run of play, and there may not be an opening to pass it to. Knowing how strong of a goalkeeper they have in Demarchi can lead to more passes back to the keeper, when the Eagles are still in their defensive zone.
Columbus’ roster has one traditional defender in Reventlow and the other nine field players are midfielders or forwards. Reventlow covered a lot of the field on defense and agitated the Sirens offense many times throughout the night, but the fast pace of the game requires rest.
Since the Eagles were behind for much of the match, it makes sense why the defense was thin at times in attempts to score. With only one match completed since July of 2019, time will tell how their game plan changes when they have a lead.
On Feb. 20, the Eagles head to Chicago for their second PASL match of the season. The Mustangs won their first match against Cincinnati 9-3.