It's a common complaint among the sport's detractors. All that running, all that work to win the ball, for games that end 2-1 or 1-0? The goals themselves are exciting, but what about the time in between them?
The lack of scoring is not for a lack of trying. Watch a high-level high school game, like the boys district title game featuring Braden River High (12-2-1) and Parrish Community High (10-8-1). The Feb. 1 contest showed the kind of effort teams need to get even one goal.
It can take time to appreciate the nuances of soccer. There is a thrill in watching a deft player who can push the ball downfield for a transitional shot on goal. And even if that shot is ultimately saved or off-target, it still can be a showcase of skill.
It is not basketball, where the average scores in college and the NBA continue to rise. That makes each individual field goal less important as a result. Because of the rarity of scoring in soccer, each goal is of the utmost importance. It might be the only one in the game.
That was the case in the Braden River-Parrish Community game. The first 44 minutes were back-and-forth, with both teams trying to find some space for a shot on net. Sophomore Esteban Benjoud came the closest for Braden River. He let loose a stunning bicycle kick — a leaping shot taken by a player with his back to the net — only to see it saved by Parrish senior goalkeeper Luke Zagrocki. The Braden River home crowd cheered anyway because the effort was worth the price of admission.
In the final minute of the first half, Parrish struck. Senior Colton Segneri found himself in front of a loose ball in the Braden River box and fired it into the top of the net. The Bulls reacted like they had just won the World Cup, yelling and sprinting down the field while taking turns hugging Segneri.
For Segneri, a defender, it was his second goal of the season. For Braden River, it was just the eighth goal the team has allowed all season. It was also the only goal anyone would score all night and Parrish won 1-0.
The Pirates peppered the Bulls' zone in the second half. Transition opportunities, throw-ins, corner kicks, even a penalty kick. The Pirates — who average 3.2 goals per game — had them all, and they all failed to produce a goal.
Braden River Head Coach Braden Chandler was frustrated by the game's result, but he also acknowledged a truth about the sport. Sometimes, the ball just does not find the net.
"A lot of things go into (scoring)," Chandler said. "Parrish has a good goalkeeper, and that can get in people's heads. Not only do they need to shoot on target, but they need to make it powerful. That can make people hesitate. You also have to get clean shots off, and we didn't do that. A lot were over or wide of the net."
Credit Parrish's defense for not allowing the Pirates the space for those shots. Chandler also said the magnitude of a game can add pressure. If this was a regular season contest, perhaps the Pirates would have played more free and taken more risks. But it was not, so they did not.
From an entertainment standpoint, the second half of the district title game was just as thrilling as the first, even though it featured no scoring. The threat of a score — the knowledge that a single swing of a leg could tie the game at any moment — gets the heart racing.
The Pirates are not done, despite the loss. Their regular-season record was enough to qualify for the Class 5A regional tournament as an at-large bid. The No. 7 seed Pirates will travel to No. 2 seed Naples High (12-4-1) on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
Do the Pirates have a shot? Sure. Just like the Bulls had a shot in the district title game. In soccer, one score is all it takes to change a game. Chandler said he hopes his team gets a better start against Naples. An early goal would allow the Pirates to clamp down on defense, something that has worked all season.
No matter what happens, it will likely be exciting — no excess of scoring needed.
Here's who else will be advancing to regionals from the East County area. Despite advancing, many of these teams struggled to generate much offense in their district tournaments, just like Braden River. Can their offensive fates change in regionals? All first-round games are at 7 p.m. Feb. 13:
After beating Braden River, the Parrish Community High boys team will be the No. 8 seed in its Class 5A region, but it will host No. 1 seed Barron Collier High (11-1-2), which lost 3-1 to Lely High (12-5-5) in its district final. Yes, high school soccer is so topsy-turvy that a No. 1 seed is a district runner-up.
The Out-of-Door Academy girls team (12-1-1) is the No. 3 seed in its Class 2A tournament after losing 1-0 to the Imagine School at North Port (8-4-1) in its district tournament. ODA will travel to No. 6 seed First Baptist Academy (11-5-1) for its first regional game; FBA won 3-2 over Seacrest Country Day School (13-6-1) in its district final.
The Lakewood Ranch High girls team (6-3-2) is the No. 5 seed in its Class 7A region after falling 3-2 to Riverview High (11-4-2) in the district title game Feb. 1. The Mustangs will hit the road to play No. 4 seed Steinbrenner High (13-3-2), which defeated Palm Harbor University High (13-3-1) 2-1 in its district final.
The No. 6 seed Braden River High (11-2-2) and No. 3 seed Parrish Community High (9-7-1) girls teams will have a rematch in a Class 5A regional tournament after Parrish defeated Braden River 2-1 in the district final. The win was Parrish's sixth-straight victory over Braden River.
The ODA boys team (13-3-0) is the No. 3 seed in its Class 2A region after falling 2-1 to Canterbury High (13-4-2) in the district finals. ODA will play the No. 6 seed Community School of Naples (10-4-5) on the road; CSN defeated First Baptist Academy (9-7-2) 2-1 to win its district tournament.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.