Friday, December 6, 2013
By Mark Jeanneret / Special to the Press Herald
SOUTH PORTLAND — It's not often a team can alter the role of its star striker and keep peace in the locker room.
For Damjan Draskovic, the preseason switch from scorer to setup man was an easy transition.
"I've always liked controlling the ball around the midfield and it comes naturally to me," Draskovic said after setting up what turned out to be the winning goal as South Portland blanked Deering 2-0 in a Southern Maine Activities Association boys' soccer game Tuesday night.
"I like distributing to my teammates and I find this position more comfortable than just playing up top. When I was there, I didn't get that many balls," Draskovic said.
The South Portland senior has done more than simply embrace his new position. He has helped the Red Riots to five straight wins and a 5-0-1 start.
Along the way, Draskovic has registered an eye-popping 11 assists, including a five-assist game against Massabesic in the second game.
"He's really changed his game quite a bit from being the guy who's going to the goal to score, to the guy who's setting everything up," said South Portland Coach Bryan Hoy.
"He's done a really good job to change his game a little bit and adapt to become the playmaker that we need.
"I think at first he was a little apprehensive about it. But once he saw what we could do with him in the middle, I haven't heard a word."
Draskovic, who has scored three goals this season, got the Red Riots offense going on a corner kick 17 minutes into the game.
Robert Graff completed the scoring play when he worked his way through traffic in the Deering crease and got a head on the ball to beat goalkeeper Anthony Russo.
Shortly after the opening goal, Deering (2-3-1) had a couple of chances, both delivered by David Bujambi.
The first opportunity from about 15 yards out, was foiled when Red Riots defender Adam Helmke blocked the shot. The second, also from dangerous distance three minutes later, skipped off the wet grass and wide of the goal.
South Portland made it 2-0 with seven minutes left in the half.
After some good pressure, Ryan Pelletier corralled a loose ball at the side of the goal and banked a sharp-angled shot in off a Deering defender.
The Rams, who owned the ball for much of the opening half, were generally ineffective playing into the wind in the second half.
Deering failed to generate a single quality scoring chance on South Portland goalkeeper Ben Burkey through the final 40 minutes of play.
"I think in the first half we pretty much controlled play," said Deering Coach Joel Costigan. "We had two unlucky goals against us in the first half and then they did a good job in the second half.
"I felt my players weren't listening to me, which is a problem. Simple things like, we know it's windy and wet so use it to our advantage – skip the ball in. We did that once and that's about it. Either they forgot or just didn't do it."