Shootout Caps Finale

Irineo Amador’s shot clinched championship
The Hampton F.C.-Bill Miller team has won the championship trophy in four of the past five 7-on-7 seasons. Jack Graves

East Hampton F.C.-Bill Miller once again took the measure of the formerly unbeatable Maidstone Market in the 7-on-7 men’s soccer league’s fall final on Nov. 25, prevailing 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout that followed 60 minutes of regulation play and two 15-minute overtime periods.

The game, played at East Hampton’s Herrick Park and reffed by Mark Passiatore, who played on East Hampton’s first traveling teams 35 years ago and who has been a Division-1 college referee since that time, was well-contested throughout, and Bill Miller seemed to have won it in the 47th minute when Alex Mesa, the Market’s goalie, made a rare error, allowing Irineo Amador’s free kick taken from about 38 yards out to pass over his fingertips and dribble behind him into the goal as he came out to punch the shot away.

About midway through the first half Bill Miller blew what seemed a sure thing when the onrushing Danny Bedoya, whom Jose Almansa’s pass had found at the near post, lifted a shot just over the crossbar.

Duvan Castro, Bill Miller’s tall player-manager, in the goal that night as a replacement for Olger (Quique) Araya, who had been sidelined with an injury, came up with a big save a few minutes later when he punched out of the left corner a hard free kick taken by Maidstone’s Julian Barahona, a former Colombian pro.

Gehider Garcia, the league’s leading scorer, with nine goals in the regular season, had a chance to put Bill Miller up in the 40th minute, but his ground-hugger went wide left. 

Amador’s converted free kick was to follow seven minutes later. 

But, with just three seconds left, and as Leslie Czeladko, the league’s overseer, was stooping to pick up the championship trophy, and as this writer was bending down to affix a flash attachment to his camera, Barahona suddenly pulled Maidstone even in shocking fashion with a 30-yard head-high free kick that, as had been the case earlier with Mesa, bent Castro’s fingers back as he tried to punch the ball away.

Barahona’s game-tying blast was greeted with glee by his teammates, who had in the regular season split wins with Bill Miller, the latter winning the first encounter, on Oct. 7, by 3-1, and with the Market winning the second 1-0 on Nov. 4.

Gehider Garcia came close again in the first minute of the first O.T., and Mario Olaya, of Maidstone, fired wide three minutes later, but while the pace became more fevered in the overtime periods — as evidenced by the yellow-cardings of Maidstone’s Luis Correa and of Almansa in the second one—  forcing each of them to the sidelines for two minutes — neither team could cash in, which brought about the aforementioned shootout during which each team sent five players to the penalty kick spot nine yards out from the goal at the Stop & Shop end of the field.

Maidstone and Bill Miller’s kickers (Olaya, Correa, Mesa, and Antonio Padilla for Maidstone, and Almansa, Gerber Garcia, Gehider Garcia, and Martin Zuniga for Bill Miller) went toe-to-toe through the first four rounds, all rocketing shots past Castro and Mesa, but then Barahona, Maidstone’s fifth to go, came up empty after having pulled up momentarily rather than hit the ball head-on. But Castro held his ground and made the save that won the championship — Bill Miller’s fourth in the past five seasons. Amador’s shot, which zipped by Mesa, clinched it.

Bill Miller got to the final thanks to a second-half header by Almansa that gave the defending champs a 1-0 win over Bateman Painting in a semifinal played Nov. 23. In the other semi that night, Maidstone Market, despite being a man down for most of the game after Ernesto Valverde was red-carded, defeated Tortorella Pools 2-1. Maidstone’s goals were scored by Correa and Olaya. Eddie Lopez scored for Tortorella. 

Maidstone finished the regular season in first place, at 8-1-1. Hampton F.C.-Bill Miller was second, at 6-3-1.