GAME OF THE WEEK: UPWARD STARS TRIUMPHANT IN THRILLER

The Upward Stars hosted the Carolina RailHawks U-23 in the NPSL’s Game of the Week on Saturday. Upward ran a ‘Movie Night’ promotion for the matchup, but before the big screen was pulled out onto the field the Stars wrote a Hollywood ending of their own.

Marvin Schmiege scored in the 90th minute to give the Stars a 3-2 win and save Upward the ignominy of squandering a two-goal lead.

“It’s our gameplan,” Stars head coach Paul Henson joked. “We like to bring teams into it and make it exciting. It was great to watch, not so great to coach. In the end we did very well to get the win and we’re pleased we did.”

Upward (1-3-3) controlled the game from the opening whistle. Recent addition Kenny Hogg played up top as the striker, which allowed Jon Grant to move out to the left wing. That formation paid dividends as the Stars exploited space out wide in their attack.

A shot by Grant deflected off of several RailHawks defenders and sat up nicely at the top of the box for Juan Guillermo Perdoma Pedroza. The Colombian’s shot went off the left post and in to give the Stars a 1-0 lead after just five minutes.

Grant scored a goal of his own in the 12th minute when Jovany Macias put a cross in from the right side and Grant slid to poke home to score from just in front of the goal line.

“We’ve been struggling for goals lately and to get two early was huge,” Grant said. “It gave us confidence. Unfortunately we gave them back two, but we gritted it out to the end and Marvin put it away.”

The RailHawks (2-2-2) answered in the 32nd minute as Luis Rendon’s shot trickled past Stars goalie Matt Amis. Carolina went into the half down 2-1, but Caleb Duvernay muscled his way down the left flank and ripped a shot into the side netting to equalize in the 50th minute.

With the score tied at 2-2, the teams traded scoring chances. Dean Rutherford’s shot sailed wide when Carolina looked primed to take the lead. Macias failed to put the Stars ahead when he put a breakaway chance off the post. Jeremy de Hogg came on in the 68th minute for the Stars and immediately forced Carolina goalkeeper Alex McCauley into two great saves.

As the missed opportunities piled up, so did the hard fouls and hard feelings. Six yellow cards were issued from the 81st minute to the 88th, three for each team. Just when a fight seemed more likely than a game-winning goal, the Stars once again looked potent attacking on the wing.

In game’s waning moments, Schmiege, who won A-Sun Player of the Year with USC Upstate last season, found the ball at his feet inside the box and thundered it into the back of the net. After surviving four minutes of stoppage time, Upward had its first win of the season.

“We played well all game and I was just waiting for my one chance,” Schmiege said. “I didn’t get a shot off until that one at the end of the game, but I knew it was coming. I wasn’t really thinking. I just took a touch and hit it as hard as I could and it ended up going in.”

Schmiege’s patience paid off and the Stars hope that patient approach applies to a season in which they had to way seven games before getting a win.

“That’s what we were waiting for,” Schmiege said. “We played well the last couple of games, but we didn’t close them out. This time we did and we’ll just go from here.”

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