Slogging through a four-games-in-seven-days stretch while dealing with some oppressive heat, Cuyahoga Falls boys soccer was hit with with some tough losses.
Following a 3-0 loss at Kenston Aug. 30, Falls dealt with a what coach Eric Ortopan called "a roller coaster" of a game Saturday, as it lost 5-1 to Akron Firestone at Laybourne Field.
Thus, Falls was facing a losing streak and perhaps its toughest opponent of the season when it hosted Brecksville-Broadview Heights Tuesday at Laybourne. The Black Tigers responded with one of their best efforts of the season — only to see their first Suburban League National Conference victory slip away late.
Two goals from Bees star Mario Abou Mitri in the last 10 minutes turned a 1-0 Falls lead into a 2-1 Bees win. Falls dropped to 1-4, 0-2 in the National Conference, but Ortopan was buoyed by his team’s performance.
"We are a better team than what we’ve shown in the last four games," Ortopan said. "We played four games in seven days, which is a tough task for any team. After the Bresckville game, I think they’ve figured it out.
"We have to got to start winning games," he added. "You can’t just talk about it. You’ve got to have results."
Ortopan said the Kenston contest was "an interesting match" in that Falls was able to control possession for about 65 percent of the game and finish with a 10-5 edge in shots on goal, but had nothing to show for it.
"We had some errors defensively," Orotopan said. "Regardless of whether we put 10 shots on goal, we did not find the back of the net. It looked good but it looked bad at the same time."
Falls also had a 5-0 edge in corner kicks, while Black Tiger goaltender Tanner Guffin had one save.
Ortopan noted Firestone was ranked in the Greater Akron Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association poll.
"Firestone is very good team." Ortopan said. "We knew a lot of their players. There were early opportunities for both teams early. It was a game that got away from us.
"It was quite a physical battle," he added. "We had our errors."
Firestone led 3-0 early in the second period, when Falls earned a penalty kick in the 60th minute. Junior Jordan Akins converted the penalty to make it 3-1, but Falls got not closer.
Firestone finished with a 10-4 edge in shots on goal.
Against Brecksville, Ortopan said the Black Tigers were ready.
"They showed up. It was long overdue," Ortopan said. "We kind of collected ourselves. Reviewing what was going on, we just were not seeing the danger that our team had to offer. When we came to Brecksville, we made sure we were more dangerous."
The shift in aggression worked, as Falls finished with a 10-5 edge in shots on goal.
Tied 0-0 at halftime, Falls was able to take the lead in the 60th minute when junior Matt Hammods sent a perfect cross into the box. Junior Michael Brustowski ran onto the ball at the back post and put it home.
Falls was 10 minutes away from its first National Conference victory, but then Abou Mitri intervened, In the 70th minute, Abou Mitri shook his defender on a corner kick headed the ball home to make it 1-1.
"That was a big momentum shift," Ortopan said.
Momentum kept shifting against Falls when forward Logan Webb was giving a second yellow card, reducing Falls to 10 players.
Two minutes later, Abou Mitri gave the Bees the lead, as he scored on a shot from outside the 18-yard box.
Brecksville had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. Guffin had three saves for Falls.
After the packed schedule, Falls has a full week to prepare for its next National Conference foe. The Black Tigers travel to Art Wright Stadium in Wedsworth next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC