The rebuilding Harrisburg Heat seemed to be cruising to an early season win, then almost gave the game away, but sent the fans home happy in the end when Tavoy “Bull” Morgan scored with 22 seconds left, giving the Heat a 7-6 win at New Holland Arena Saturday night.
“It’s a win,” said Heat coach Pat Healey. “It’s an ugly win, but it’s a win.”
The Heat got their first win of the season. Morgan got his first two MASL goals. Goalkeeper William Banahene got his first MASL win. It almost didn’t turn out that way when St. Louis came back from a 6-3 deficit to tie the game with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t start the game well how we planned to start, so coming back in the game we had to spend a lot of energy, so it was hard,” said Ambush player/coach Hewerton Moreira who missed his second game of the season with an ankle injury.
The Heat jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals 30 seconds apart by Nelson Santana and Dominic Francis. St. Louis got on the board at 13:15 on a Magui Souza goal, but Ricardo Carvalho answered just over a minute later to put the Heat back up by two.
“We were too soft defensively,” said Hewerton. “We were not covering spaces and once we got the ball we automatically gave it back to them.”
Early in the second quarter Antonio Manfut shot wide and the ball ricocheted out to the yellow line where Morgan played it off the boards to himself to evade Felipe Silva and then outraced Corey Adamson down the sideline and beat Casey Clark far post for his first professional goal.
Morgan, who was playing in just his second game with the Heat, looked like an indoor veteran, but his journey to the MASL was a happy accident. Bull was playing for Connecticut’s Newtown Pride against the Heat in the Capital Area Community Cup last February where he caught the team’s eye.
“This is my first indoor experience,” said Morgan. “I came here last year to play a practice game against the Heat and they were interested in me and I came and tried out. Then I made it and I’m here now and I’m happy!”
Mario Marcos scored at 10:54 of the second quarter, but Carvalho scored on a shootout less than a minute before halftime to put the Heat up 5-2.
In the third quarter Harrisburg dominated possession, but was at best ineffective, and at worst cavalier, in finishing. William Eskay and Daniel Villela had golden chances to increase the Heat lead, but couldn’t execute.
That left the door open for St. Louis to come back. JT Thomas scored on a weird bounce off Banahene’s glove to cut the deficit to 5-3. The Heat got the lead back up to three again, however, in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Francis scored his second of the night.
The comeback began in earnest, though, when Zac Reget’s nifty effort on the boards was rewarded by a fortuitous carom off Danny DiPrima into the net.
The Ambush cut the deficit to one when Reget spun in the box and slammed home his second goal, on a long assist from Robert Acosta.
Justin Stinson was given credit for the tying goal after he bounced one off the boards that deflected into the goal off Santana’s head.
In the final minute, Banahene shook off his bad luck and tossed a long pass to Morgan, who took one touch, cocked his left foot, and blasted it into the right corner for the game-winner.
“It was great to get my first goal and stick to coach’s game plan,” said Morgan. “I told my teammates to find me and they believed in me. They find me and we execute.”
Banahene, like Morgan, was a late addition to the Heat roster, and a newcomer to the arena game.
“It was a lot better than last week,” Banahene said, compared to his first start, which resulted in a 9-7 loss to Utica City FC. “Last week I was really nervous. I tried to be a little bit more confident today. I talked to a lot of people who were familiar with indoor and they said just relax, the fans out here will sense fear. That was my biggest change from last week to this week. It was good to get the win, you know, we controlled the game most of the time. It was an exciting ending, but we wanted a more convincing win.”
The Heat have four goalkeepers on the roster, but the starting job seems to be Banahene’s to lose.
“He did enough in camp. He’s earned it every day,” said Healey. “He’s playing good. He made a bunch of big saves tonight. He won the game.”
“The biggest thing is just to get better each game,” said the soft-spoken Banahene. “Pat gave me the opportunity. I came here with nothing to lose and then I made the team and then I end up starting the first two games. It’s been a crazy three weeks for me.”
The Heat (1-1) needed a win as they are about to embark on a six-game road trip. After their next game against the Florida Tropics on December 14, Harrisburg will play seven of their following eight games against the Baltimore Blast and Utica.
St. Louis (1-2), will play their next three games against the Kansas City Comets, including their home opener December 16.