The Virginia Beach Mariners extended their unbeaten streak to three matches after settling for a 1-1 draw against the Toronto Lynx on a picturesque Sunday evening in front of 572 at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
Following a stoppage time equalizer Friday at Charleston, the Mariners (1-2-2, 5 pts) had a hard time getting open past the Lynx (0-2-2, 2 pts) defense packing the box with as many as eight players. Though out-shooting the visiting side 16-6 for the match, the Mariners were forced either to shoot from long-range or struggle to find cracks against the packed-in Lynx.
The Mariners showed signs of crashing the Toronto net early, but they were unable to establish any legitimate runs, taking three shots along with three corner kicks in the opening 10 minutes of play. Midfielder Darren Caskey also had an early chance to score but was taken down inside the box by a Toronto defender. No call was forthcoming and play continued.
Defender Russell Hutchison had a header saved off a Caskey free kick after the Lynx’s Jeremie Piette picked up a yellow card in the 25th minute. Four minutes later, Mariners forward David Castellanos could not poke the ball past Lynx goalkeeper Theo Zagar off a solid cross by forward Kevon Harris.
Toronto’s first legitimate chance came in the 32nd minute when Winston Griffiths played a through pass to Ali Gerba, but the Lynx’s leading scorer couldn’t put the necessary velocity on the ball to pass Mariners keeper Matt Nelson.
While Toronto appeared to have a step on the Mariners’ forwards for much of the evening, Caskey made the most of a free kick opportunity just outside the 18-yard box during the 36th minute after Piette took down Castellanos. The Englishman precisely curved the ensuing free kick around the four-man Toronto wall, sliding just inside the left post to put Virginia Beach in front with his second goal of the season.
Caskey almost struck again on a free kick five minutes later, serving a ball to a diving Hutchison but had his header stopped by Zagar. Midfielder Steve Shak also had his shot saved by Zagar in the 44th minute after midfielder Jakob Fenger faked a pass to Castellanos down the left side before sending a ball over the back line as the Mariners went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
After both defenses kept their keepers quiet early in the closing half, Toronto tied the match in the 58th minute. Conrad Smith sent a ball through a then-vulnerable Mariners back line to Winston Griffths, who tapped the ball just past oncoming Mariners goalkeeper Matt Nelson.
The Mariners stepped up their offensive pressure late in the match in an effort to pick up three points. Caskey was unable to pass Zagar on multiple free kick opportunities, including one inside the six-yard box during stoppage time as Shak’s effort was blocked wide.
Toronto also had their chances to go ahead and log their first win of the season. Two Gerba runs were denied by Nelson who logged four saves on the evening, and Rumba Munthali could not get on the end of a free kick from the left side of the box in the 90th minute.
Referee Erich Simmons kept his whistle quite handy Sunday whistling a combined 38 fouls, six offside calls, three Toronto cautions as well as a straight red card in the 75th minute given to Smith, who made a hard tackle on Hutchison.
While the Lynx continue to try for their first win of 2005 in a six-game road trip this weekend at Charleston (Friday, 7:30pm) and Atlanta (Saturday, 5:30pm), Virginia Beach will be back at the Sportsplex Saturday, May 7 for a 7:30pm contest against the 2004 A-League champion Montreal Impact. The Impact travel to Richmond the following night for a 6:00 p.m. Mother’s Day match with the Kickers.
Score by Period:
Toronto Lynx (0-2-2) 0 1 – 1
Virginia Beach Mariners (1-2-2) 1 0 – 1
VAB Darren Caskey 36
TOR Winston Griffiths (Conrad Smith) 58
VAB Matt Nelson, Steve Danbusky, Joe Morelli, Tim O’Neill, Russell Hutchison (Jose Gomez 76), Steve Shak, Jeff Bilyk, Darren Caskey, Jakob Fenger (Hamisi Amani-Dove 62), Kevon Harris (Teofore Bennett 54), David Castellanos.
TOR Theo Zagar, Andres Arango, Joswe Mayard, Jeremie Piette, Robin Hart, Rumba Munthali, Rick Titus, Winston Griffiths, Sean Fraser (Huffman El Tabe 74), Ali Gerba, Dave Simpson (Conrad Smith 57).
TOR Jeremie Piette 25
TOR Rick Titus 73
TOR Rumba Munthali 79
TOR Conrad Smith 75
Center Referee: Erich Simmons
First Assistant Referee: Bill Dittmar
Second Assistant Referee: Dan Stead
Fourth Official: Susan Walton
Weather: Sunny, 63 degrees