Tyler Raab scored one goal and assisted on another to lead Mason to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over East Lansing in a key non-league boys soccer matchup Tuesday night.
The two teams form one of the fiercest, most historic non-league rivalries in the area, and Mason coach Nick Binder said that the win was a step forward for his young Bulldogs.
“East Lansing played incredibly well, I think they’ll have a lot of success this year,” Binder said. “It was a good win for us to beat a team of that caliber.”
Mason scored both of their goals in the second half, but it was all East Lansing (3-1-2) in the first, starting with the opening goal less than five minutes into the game.
Trojan sophomore DeJuan Jones sent Ben Swanson-Ralph in on the right side with a perfectly weighted pass. Swanson-Ralph fought off a Bulldog defender on his left shoulder and beat keeper Josh Flamme to the far post with 35:35 left in the half.
The goal seemed to put a little extra spring into East Lansing’s step, and the Trojans kept Mason (4-1-1) back on their heels for the rest of the half. Swanson-Ralph nearly doubled the lead with 16:50 left in the half, when his shot from the 18-yard line forced a Flamme save.
Mason’s best chance of the half came with under eight minutes on the clock, when Raab hit a free kick from the top of the “D” in the EL penalty area and put it just inches over the bar, and the score stayed 1-0 at the half.
Raab started the play that led to the tying goal, taking on two defenders on the left-wing side of the Trojan box and finding Antonio Cooper-Lopez at the near post. The first-time finish beat EL keeper Kellon Johnston-Roper to the upper corner with 24:24 left in the game.
Ten minutes later Raab lined up another free kick, this one about 25 yards from the East Lansing goal. This time, he found the mark, putting the ball over the Trojan wall and into the upper corner to the left of a helpless Johnston-Roper for the winning goal with 14:41 left.
“We got better from half one to half two,” Binder said. “That’s what we’ll take away from this. The result is great but we’ve got goals, and winning non-conference, early-season games is not one of them.”
Despite the loss, East Lansing coach Nick Archer said that he was happy with what he saw for most of the game.
“We carried the play a lot, but Mason played tough,” Archer said. “They came back, and we just kind of folded at a critical time. We created chances, but when you create them, you have to finish them.”