Nov. 21, 2010

Allentown, Pa. - Courtesy of Messiah Athletics

Two years ago, Messiah and Medaille College met in the NCAA First Round and the Falcons needed some magic to beat the Mavericks in overtime.

Saturday afternoon at Muhlenberg College's Varsity Field, the Falcons needed no such magic, just Danny Thompson.

The junior forward scored two goals to help Messiah blow past Medaille in an NCAA Sectional Semi-Final, winning by a 2-0 count in a one-sided effort. With the victory, the Falcons advance to Sunday's Sectional Final to face the United States Merchant Marine Academy, which beat the host Mules by a 1-0 count in Saturday's other semi-final.

"We were all over them right away," Messiah head coach Brad McCarty said afterward. "They were pinned in their end. Our possession was too much for them early. We had early scoring opportunities, and we were dangerous. I was pleased with our level of play today."

With quality chances in the fifith, 10th, and 15th minutes, Messiah (20-1) pressed and possessed in Medaille's half for the majority of the first period. Then, for a short while, the Mavericks pushed up with the support of sophomore George Tor.

It would be a mere aberration, however.

The Falcons ended the game with a 34-9 advantage in total shots, though Tor came up with one third of his team's chances on the day.

"(Tor) is a good player and he was a handful for our center backs," McCarty said. "He was good one-v-one and his talents really showed when (Medaille) countered."

But, as the statistics demonstrated, counters for Medaille (16-5-3) were few and far between. When the Mavericks did become dangerous, senior Jon Burke and junior Jordan Sands proved to be strong with support, stopping Tor and company collectively.

When the ball was successfully cleared and pushed into Messiah's attacking third, it was Thompson's time to shine.

Just inside the 28th minute, Thompson held strong in the middle of the 18-yard box as a corner kick was served in. The ball dropped down in a scrum and Thompson slid and toe-poked into the back of the net for Messiah's first goal of the day.

"I thought it was well deserved," McCarty said. "It was the third corner in a row for us. A few minutes before, they had blocked a shot off the line. One of their defenders chested the ball off the line. We knew Medaille was well organized, they played hard and they were coached well. We thought they were going to be a tough nut to crack and they were. We knew corners and set pieces were going to be big for us, as they are a difficult team to beat in the run of play."

At half, Messiah showed poise and patience with their opportunities as a majority of their shots were on frame, showing the efficiency of the Falcons' possession game.

The second half was similar to the first, as Medaille couldn't seem to handle the intensity and level or pressure needed to stop Messiah for a full 90 minutes.

"Things opened up and got a little easier for us," McCarty said. "There were more goal scoring chances for us. We had our legs and that helped us out."

In the game's 56th minute, senior Geoff Pezon gained possession out of the middle of the field on the left flank. Pezon then curled a pass to the middle of the Maverick's 18-yard box, but a defender knocked the ball in the air.

Cue none other than Danny Thompson, who volleyed home his fifth goal of the year in artistic fashion.

"Obviously, getting the second goal was huge," McCarty said. "It took a little of the pressure off and made Medaille stretch out even more."

For Thompson, the NCAA Tournament has been a virtual playground, as the Hudson, Ohio native has scored five career goals in the `Big Dance,' an impressive ratio considering he has just 21 career markers.

"Danny started on the wing for us last year and this season, but we felt that he could be effective for us up top," McCarty said. "He pressures the defense well and runs out of the middle strongly. He hasn't been generating as many goals (this year), but a lot of people feed off and focus on Peez and Nick (Thompson). It is good for him to get goals when they aren't able to."

Pezon doused Medaille's chances in the 2008 post-season, scoring on a breakaway with five minutes elapsed in overtime to claim a 2-1 Falcons First Round win. Saturday's contest marked the Mavericks' first-ever appearance in the `Sweet 16.'

Messiah now looks to advance to the national semi-finals for the seventh consecutive year, facing Merchant Marine at 1 p.m. Sunday.