ENGLEWOOD – Michael Bradley literally saved his best for last.
With defending Class 3A state champion Liberty Common down one score to Roaring Fork after one round in a shootout Wednesday night in the 3A boys soccer semifinals, the Eagles goalkeeper took control.
Bradley stopped the next four attempts from the Rams, and Elliot McCormick and Michael Yeh found the back of the net to give Liberty Common the 2-1 shootout victory at Englewood High School.
The Eagles (16-3) return to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to defend their 2017 state championship. Ninth-seeded Liberty Common will play Kent Denver.
It’s a similar path for the Eagles, who were the No. 8 seed a year ago. Liberty Common notched three shutout victories to reach Wednesday’s semifinals, and the team now has 14 shutouts on the season.
Fourth-seeded Roaring Fork (15-2-1) tested the Eagles early, but neither team could find many open chances through 110 minutes of regulation and two overtimes. With penalty kicks deciding the first participant in the title game, Roaring Fork goalkeeper Leo Loya stopped the first shot and Max Candela scored for the Rams.
Liberty Common’s second attempt went off the post before McCormick tied it up.
After a handful of saves, Yeh converted the Eagles’ final attempt, and Bradley turned away Roaring Fork’s last chance.
Loya made two saves in the shootout and six saves during the game. Roaring Fork put together its best season since 2014, winning three postseason games before coming up just short Wednesday.
(2) Kent Denver 3, (3) Colorado Academy 0
A tight game that looked as though it could be headed to overtime turned in a hurry.
Kent Denver scored three goals in less than five minutes early in the second half, sending the Sun Devils back into the 3A title game for the fourth time in five years.
Kent Denver (18-0-1) won three consecutive titles from 2014-16, but Colorado Academy ended that run in the 2017 semifinals in a shootout. The Sun Devils responded this fall by finishing the regular season unbeaten (the only blemish was a 1-1 tie with 4A state finalist Denver North), including a 2-1 victory over Metro League rival Colorado Academy back on Oct. 4.
Max Hewitt broke open a scoreless game in the 44th minute, taking advantage of charging Colorado Academy goalkeeper Charlie Westfall by sending a high ball into the open net.
Four minutes later it was Pace Billings’ turn, heading a corner kick into the net to make it 2-0. Only 34 seconds later, a ball deflected off a Colorado Academy defender and into the net.
That was a far cry from the first half, when neither team was able to catch a break. The Sun Devils had a 1-on-1 opportunity in the final six minutes, but Westfall made a diving stop to his right. With just less than two minutes remaining, a shot went off the post to send the two teams into halftime scoreless.
Joey Waldbaum recorded six second-half saves for Kent Denver, including a nice stop on a free kick that he pushed up into the football goalpost in the final 14 minutes. Nearly seven minutes later he deflected another laser above the net. The Mustangs had four corner kicks in the second half as well but couldn’t convert.
Colorado Academy (16-3) was attempting to reach consecutive 3A title games for the first time since winning it all in 2012-13. Kent Denver and Colorado Academy have now combined to make a combined nine championship appearances over seven seasons.