Chris Riley’s final home game of his professional soccer career didn’t go exactly like he had hoped, but the good news is there is still some meaningful soccer left for him and the Greater Binghamton FC Thunder.
Sean Streb scored in the 76th minute, enabling the Thunder to salvage a 3-all tie with the Buxmont Torch in a National Premier Soccer League contest Saturday on Visions Field at the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex.
The tie for Greater Binghamton (3-2-4), combined with Clarkstown FC’s 4-0 victory over Hershey FC on Saturday, means the Thunder and Buxmont (5-3-1) will play for the Keystone Conference’s last remaining berth in the NPSL’s Northeast Region playoffs when they meet at 4 p.m. Sunday at Pennridge High School just north of Philadelphia.
Greater Binghamton needs to win to earn its third straight Northeast Region playoff berth. Buxmont advances with either a win or a tie.
“I thought we played at a higher level than we have in a long time,” said Greater Binghamton coach Al Mydlinski, noting that several of his key players missed the game due to a wedding. “This team is real young, and I thought we did real well with those younger players.”
Bo Jelovac and Hans Purtell added goals for Greater Binghamton, while Sachem netted a hat trick for Buxmont, two of those goals coming via penalty kicks.
The last of those penalty kicks came in the 68th minute, Sachem putting the Torch ahead 3-2 after Riley was called for a questionable foul for dragging down a Buxmont player in the box as they battled for the ball on a pass from Sachem.
Sachem nearly gave Buxmont a two-goal lead moments later when he gained possession deep in Greater Binghamton territory but his shot sailed just high. It would prove to be a costly miss, as the Thunder would secure the game-tying goal less than 10 minutes later.
That came after Greater Binghamton’s Jacob Sutherland sent a long pass off a free kick toward Streb in the box, who bounced a shot past Buxmont goalie Matt Palmer to tie the score at 3.
“I had some chances that I should have put away, that’s my job up top,” said Sachem. “We still have a chance to make history here, we’ve never made the playoffs.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point, and we have homefield advantage which is a blessing.”
After Streb’s game-tying goal, Greater Binghamton actually had several chances to net the game-winner in the final few minutes of the game.
Sutherland had a free kick just outside the box, but his kick went high and wide left. Shortly after that, Greater Binghamton’s Alex Varkatzas fired a shot a yard wide from close range off a nice pass from Connor McKnight.
Riley, a Union-Endicott High graduate and Greater Binghamton FC co-founder who is taking over as men’s soccer coach at SUNY Broome after coaching Maine-Endwell High’s boys team the past four seasons, had mixed emotions following the contest.
“There were a couple of unfortunate calls and unfortunate bounces,” said Riley, who had played for various professional teams since 2005. “But the crowd, the atmosphere, it was a very special day for my last (home) game. I feel blessed and honor that I can play soccer in the Binghamton area.”
Buxmont controlled much of the play in early going, and finally capitalized Sachem dribbled through traffic near the top of the box before firing a shot just inside the left post past Greater Binghamton goalie Brian Hochstruhl in the 14th minute to put the Torch ahead 1-0. Buxmont continued to administer pressure, with Khalil Karl almost making it 2-0 only to be denied when his shot from the left side from about 20 yards out was stopped by a diving Hochstruhl.
Greater Binghamton eventually settled down, tying the score at 1 when Purtell scored on a header in the 36th minute. Buxmont, though, regained the lead just three minutes later when Sachem scored on a penalty kick.
However, the Thunder would continue to have the better of things for most of the second half, Jelovac scored on a penalty kick in the 49th minute for Greater Binghamton to knot the score at 2.
“I’m extremely disappointed, we did not play the way that we are able to play,” Buxmont coach Rich Sparling said. “I don’t think we had good composure, we didn’t make wise passes, we were just out of synch a little bit.”