Last-second shot bags state title
Unspoken confidence. The fans may not have felt it. The rest of the team might not have had an inkling. But with 8.4 seconds left in double overtime at the 3A Utah State High School Boys’ Soccer Championship, Park City’s Tyler Thomas and head coach Caro Caro had confidence. And that was all that mattered as Thomas converted a penalty kick into 1-0 victory and a state championship over the Morgan Trojans at Timpview High School on Saturday.
"I had all the confidence," Thomas said. "I knew that it was going in."
As the double overtime clock began winding toward zero, the Park City bench began asking Caro if he wanted to set up the five-player lineup he would need for a shoot-out, but Caro said he had confidence in his team.
"Even with 30 seconds left, I knew we would be able to score," Caro said.
The funny thing is, Thomas was not Caro’s go-to penalty-kicking guy. That assignment belonged to Adam Laufer. But when Michael Glenn was fouled in the box, , Laufer wasn’t on the field. That left Thomas, who made a big penalty kick against Cedar early in the season, but then missed one in a disappointing loss against Logan.
"I said, ‘You want it? You go for it,’" Caro said. "I was 100 percent sure he wanted it."
Tyler said both of those kicks flashed through his head on Saturday, but somehow he just knew it would go in. The kick didn’t exactly take the trajectory he had planned, but it still was uncatchable enough to slip past Morgan’s goalie.
"I was going for the right corner," Thomas said. "He touched it, but it went through him."
It was the last play the senior would make for Park City and will go down in history as one of the most memorable.
Although both teams had trouble putting points on the board, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Both teams had numerous shots on goal that went wide right, wide left and off the crossbars. In the first half, Austen Stevens and Tyler Shepard had some good looks and Michael Glenn had one in the second that slid wide right.
"It took longer than expected to beat Morgan," Caro admitted.
Still, Caro applauded his team for never giving up against the aggressive Trojans. Park City played Morgan’s game briefly at the beginning of the game, but settled into its usual possession-driven style by the second half.
Park City goalkeeper Jacob Sirianni applauded the efforts of Morgan’s goalie, John Haws, even after the winning kick barely slipped through his fingers.
Caro said it was not just the Miners’ skill but their intensity that allowed him to believe they would win the state title.
"They may express it in a different way, but it’s still the same desire," Caro said.
Caro said that, from the moment he took over the team this season, he could see what tremendous talent it had and knew then that it could win the state championship, but wasn’t aware of what the competition was capable of. After the first round of the playoffs, he started watching some of the other playoff teams. Each boasted different styles and strengths, so Caro began publicly talking about the talent and potential of his own team so the Miners would gain that mental confidence that would give them the edge over the rest of the competition.
Caro said a lot of people looked right past Park City’s semifinal opponent Uintah, but he knew that team had tremendous heart and would bring its best game out for the Miners.
"This is a playoff game. This is a different game," Caro said. "It doesn’t matter how they got here."
This is the third state title for the Park City boys’ soccer team in five years. The last one came in 2006. After this year’s team won the title, the team ran onto the field and embraced. Stevens ripped off his jersey to reveal a hand-painted gray T-shirt that read "Matt Knoop #13," in honor of his former teammate who was killed just weeks ago. Knoop was a key part of the 2006 championships. Looks like he was a key part of this one as well.
Two people indicated in interviews they are considering mounting campaigns for the Park City Council, a signal the City Hall election could attract an intriguing slate of candidates in a year when the majority of the five seats are on the ballot.