BY JUSTUS STURTEVANT, STAFF WRITER
The Crusaders fell in a heartbreaker on Saturday, as Mariners sophomore forward Dan Weldon’s strike in extra time gave the Merchant Marine Mariners a 2-1 victory.
Senior forward Patrick Fry scored Susquehanna’s only goal, assisted by junior midfielder David Trank, while senior goalie Matt Salsman tallied three saves for the Crusaders in the defeat.
Susquehanna got off to a poor start, conceding a goal just 12 minutes into the game, when a cross into the box was finished by junior midfielder Kyle Arestivo.
The Crusaders recovered, as several key substitutions by head coach Jim Findlay sparked the Susquehanna squad, and by the end of the half, they had outshot the Mariners 9-8 and had earned five corner kicks, compared to just two for Merchant Marine.
Several promising attacks late in the half fell short for the Crusaders, including a strike by sophomore midfielder Samuel Tana that was turned away by a defender.
Despite such promising attacks, Susquehanna entered the break trailing 1-0.
Findlay again went to his bench to start the second half, and once again his team responded, earning several great chances to score.
However, much like in the first half, the Crusaders failed to convert on any of them. Their best chance came in the 60th minute of the game when Mariner senior goalie Gary Poulin just managed to corral a Susquehanna header coming off of a dangerous cross into the box.
The Crusaders continued to press, and minutes later they found the equalizer they were seeking. With just 15 minutes left in regulation Susquehanna earned a free kick just beyond midfield. Trank received a quick pass and took off down the sideline before the Merchant Marine defense had a chance to set up.
After beating his man to the corner, Trank sent a crisp pass into the box, which found the foot of Fry for a one touch score, tying the game 1-1.
The final 15 minutes of the game saw multiple scoring opportunities for the now energized Crusaders, including a shot that flew just wide of the goal as time expired. The Mariner defense held though, and the game was sent into an extra session.
Six minutes into overtime, the Crusaders hopes for a come-from-behind victory were dashed as Weldon received the ball on a Merchant Marine counterattack and buried a 20-yard strike beyond a diving Salsman.
The Crusaders and Mariners each had five shots on goal.
While disappointed in his team’s inability to pull out the win, Findlay said he was pleased with the play of the Crusaders following the early Mariners goal.
“We were pretty flat in the beginning, we gave up the goal, and then I felt from that point on we dominated, tying it up,” Findlay said. “Then to get scored on in overtime was a big letdown for sure, but that’s the game of soccer.”
Findlay said he looks for his team to find the back of the net a bit more moving forward. He said: “Even in the two games we’ve lost, we’ve outplayed the opponent, and we’ve created more chances than the opponents. While that’s good, we need a player or two to step up and score a little more consistently.”
The Crusaders come back home for their second conference game against Moravian on Sept. 28.