University vs. Strongsville boys soccer: Preppers gut out 2-1 win over Mustangs

Aug. 26—The 80 from University on Aug. 26 in a nonconference clash with visiting Strongsville won't be worthy of fond fireside chats any time soon.

At least for the Preppers, though, the goals they produced were fire — and in a hot-potato kind of match, US' form was warm enough to muster a result.

Anderson Gardner's strike approaching the hour mark gave the Preppers a gritty 2-1 win over a perennially solid Mustangs side.

While not the most sterling 80 in the rich lore of US (3-1), the best development emanating from the afternoon was it was effective enough, with the cognizance that there's room for growth.

"Strongsville is a big soccer community, and any time we can get a result against a team and a community like that, I think it speaks a lot for our boys and how hard we work and what we're doing here at University School," Preppers coach John Ptacek said.

#NHsoccer US senior defender Alex Palmer discusses a 2-1 win over visiting Strongsville

Good for that young man — called into the 11 & has a nice 2-way match including opening his side's account with (per OSSCA database) his 1st HS goal

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) August 26, 2023

US found itself in a 1-1 match after halftime, beginning to find some of the attacking quality it displayed in the first 10 minutes. Cue Gardner.

One of The News-Herald coverage area's premier strikers, Gardner settled a long-ball touch with his back to goal, completed the touch-and-turn and slotted a right-footed effort in traffic for his first goal of the fall.

#NHsoccer Since this also got stuck uploading in Hunting Valley, here is Anderson Gardner's match-winner in the 59th for a 2-1 US victory

(Again, we'll all just pretend I did this in real time )

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) August 26, 2023

"The two center backs I knew were almost doing like a sweeper/stopper toward me," Gardner said. "They weren't hitting me too hard the whole game, so I knew that I could turn on them and I wouldn't get chopped down. I knew the second one would be behind, so I could kind of pass it around to him and then use my speed to get through. And I just was able to put it away. A good finish.

"Coming into today, we knew Strongsville was going to be a great team and great program, always ranked highly and a lot of kids. So we knew what we were up against. It wasn't the prettiest, but we got the three points, and that is all that really matters."

Palmer opened his side's account in the seventh minute.

Braeden Piero embarked on an endline run, crossing into the box. That cross was partially tipped by Strongsville goalkeeper Aleks Kolar but settled for Palmer at the top of the box. The senior right back did well with a one-timer side net. Per the OSSCA database, it was the first goal of Palmer's US career.

#NHsoccer Since it got stuck uploading while in Hunting Valley, here is Alex Palmer's strike in the 7th for a 1-0 US lead

(We'll all just pretend I did this in real time )

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) August 26, 2023

"Our starting right back got hurt, and Palmer got the callup," Gardner said. "He really performed well today, not only offensively, but he had a tough challenge with (Stefan Trmcic) on his side. He really did well against him defensively. A masterful performance out of him."

The Mustangs, between shape and counter ability, were a handful as the match wore along.

They got an equalizer from Hadi Khalil in the 50th on a right-footed effort near post around the edge of the six to make it a 1-1 match.

But US found a way courtesy of Gardner down the stretch.

The Preppers are 3-1 with September approaching, bouncing back from a loss last weekend to North Canton Hoover and a postponement during the week against Cleveland Heights.

This won't be worthy of a fireside chat any time soon — but this result will assuredly be helpful as US seeks to locate its stride.

"I'm feeling confident about this team," Gardner said. "I really think that we have the talent. We have the tenacity. We just need to continue to jell, and this team can potentially go far."

#NHsoccer My postmatch analysis of US' 2-1 win over Strongsville

(Match story will be posted shortly)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) August 26, 2023