SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- The Columbia Cougars and Caldwell Chiefs battled it out on the pitch Friday afternoon at Meadowland Park to a 1-1 tie.
The Cougars appeared to be coasting to victory late in the game with less than two minutes remaining, but Caldwell’s Cooper Milano had other plans. The Chiefs senior captain blasted a shot from just outside the box that went sailing past Columbia goalkeeper Josh Skoller, ruining his shutout performance and spoiling Columbia’s victory party.
Head coach Santiago Salme, coaching in only his third game since 50-year coach Gene Chyzowych’s sudden retirement due to health reasons, was obviously disappointed in the last-minute collapse but looked to the future. “We have to have more chemistry,” he said. “It’s okay because we’re still in September. I want to have that chemistry in October.”
Neither team was able to take advantage of opportunities in the two 10-minute overtime periods that followed. Both teams had scoring chances, but solid goalkeeping and tough defense, especially from Columbia sweeper Tim Gray, led to the draw in the end. The physical nature of the overtime periods played right into Gray’s game, and he used his size and strength to bully opposing forwards.
The first goal of the game didn’t come until the second half when Columbia star midfielder Max Maidenberg put a shot in the top right shelf of the net. The goal, Maidenberg’s fourth of the year, came fairly easy as goalie Collin Hill was caught out of position, which allowed a relatively easy shot on target.
The Cougars controlled the second half, enjoying the majority of the possession time and having more shots on goal, but Milano’s late equalizer was enough to deny them the victory in regulation.
Salme looks to continue building rapport this weekend with his players and what he calls a “team-building exercise.” The team will be holding a car wash Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon at Columbia High School.
The Cougars (2-2-1) will travel to Robeson Stadium Tuesday to take on East Orange.
The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.