By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)May 25, 2017
Daniel Johnson found himself in the right place at the right time.
Only a few seconds before, his U.S. Marine Corps Detachment teammate, James Page, took a shot from about 12 yards from the 5th Engineer Battalion goal, which was deflected by goalkeeper Chris Lawless. However, after that, the ball bounced up and to the right, and it landed directly in Johnson's path, giving the midfielder the opportunity to dribble two steps to the goal line and kick the ball in for a 1-0 lead.
That goal, which occurred 12 minutes into the first half, turned out to be the only goal of the 2017 Commander's Cup Soccer Tournament championship match, giving the Marine Det. team the perfect end to an undefeated season May 17 on Fort Leonard Wood's Field 2.
"When I got to the goal by myself, it was an easy shot after that, and a fun one, too," Johnson said.
The result was the same as the Marines' 1-0 win over the 5th Engr. Bn. April 25 -- the only other game the 5th Engineers lost all season. But this time around, with several players having left for training and a number of new players on board, the Marine Det. roster featured an almost a completely different lineup, one that relied on a solid defense as opposed to its previous, attack-oriented approach.
Leading the defense was Ernest Milton, Marine Det. goalkeeper, who left the field with nine saves, including five in a four-minute span near the end of the second half, as the 5th Engr. Bn. forwards took multiple shots on goal.
"It was just hard work, and the defense helped me out several times," said Milton, who appeared to injure his hand on the final save.
The 5th Engr. Bn. controlled the pacing of the match for most of the first half, keeping the ball in Marine Det. territory about 60 percent of the time. Both teams spent nearly all of the second half on the Marines' half of the field.
All together, the 5th Engr. Bn. took 13 shots on goal compared to six for the Marine Det., but the Engineers couldn't get the ball past Milton.
"It was very tough," Milton said. "We had a lot of new players, trying to adjust. It was very windy, so it's hard to judge the ball."
One of the new players on Marine team was Johnson, who made his debut during the Marine's 2-1 win over the 14th Military Police Brigade in the tournament semi-final May 16.
"This is my second game," Johnson said. "Yesterday was my first, which was a fun game, too. After this game, I wish I could have played more."
The 5th Engr. Bn. advanced to the championship match after defeating the 554th Engr. Bn. 5-1 in its semi-final May 16.
Just prior to the final, the 14th MP Bde. won the tournament's third-place game, with a 1-0 win over the 554th Engr. Bn. 14th MP Bde. forward Leeah Bidwell scored the winning goal in the last minute of the first half.
"I just kept running toward the goal," she said. "The goalkeeper came out and the ball bounced off him, and I happened to be there."
14th MP Bde. goalkeeper Guillermo Garcia made a diving save as the whistle sounded to seal the win.
Six teams qualified to play in the single-elimination tournament, which began May 15. In the first round, the 554th Engr. Bn. defeated the Medical Department Activity, 2-1, while the 14th MP Bde. advanced with a forfeit win. Both the Marine Det., which won the regular season with a record of 6-0, and the 5th Engr. Bn., which finished the season in second place with a record of 5-1, had first-round byes.