Goalkeeper Joe White Stands Out as Lansing United Downs Grand Rapids on Penalty Kicks
Above: Joe White after Wednesday's win over Grand Rapids
Joe White had it all to do.
As he sidled to the goalline of his own net like a gladiator entering the Coliseum, he knew Grand Rapids FC could take a 4-3 lead in penalty kicks while Lansing United only had one shot left.
He dove right and made the save. 3-3, one shot left a side. Then, in what was later revealed to be a preordained decision from head coach Nate Miller, White lined up to take the fifth penalty.
“I do love penalties, kind of hanging on at the end there.”
GRFC keeper Noah Fazekas pointed down and to his right, seeming to try and tempt White, who promptly buried a shot in the upper-right corner.
White got back in net, dove to his right and by the farthest reaches of his outstretched mitt, turned the shot away, sealing Lansing United’s win over Grand Rapids FC in the semifinals of the Michigan Milk Cup, 1-1 (4-3 PKs) at East Lansing Soccer Complex. After making the critical save, White goose stepped out of the six yard box to the onrushing teammates who played 120 minutes of stalemate soccer, a decent portion down a man.
“Credit goes to Joe,” Miller said postgame.
The win also sent Lansing to the championship of the Michigan Milk Cup, but a first-half mistake by White (below, in goal) had it on the brink for most of the second half.
With 10 minutes to play in the first half, play had been roughly even. Grand Rapids going one way, building up a dangerous attack only to be foiled by a strong tackle on the wings or up the middle from a Lansing defender, and vice versa.
But then on a long GRFC throw in from the deep right corner, the ball took an odd deflection straight to Grand Rapids’ Kieran Geldenhuys in the six yard box. He tapped home the easy finish for a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“Bit of a misunderstanding between me and Nick (Strack), but we sorted it out.” White said of the goal.
As the game grew more and more physical in the second half, it seemed like Lansing was meeting a defensive roadblock at every move.
Lobs down the sidelines to speedy wingers were too long or met with defenders shins. A building attack withered away with one bad pass.
Then in the 89th minute, Kyle Carr threw a cross arcing across the goalies face, over two GRFC heads. Up to meet it came Lansing forward (and ELHS grad) Dajuan Jones, tying the game with a header with minutes left.
“I don’t normally score header goals,” Jones said. “I scored one earlier in the season. I just found space in the box.”
In the ensuing 30 minutes of extra time, neither team broke through. Tackles grew rougher and at one point the referee could be heard trying to quell an argument. It came to a head when a rough tackle and some extracurricular activity earned Lansing’s Danny Wright being sent off.
With 10 men, Lansing had to hunker down and simply endure. It did.
“We felt like we were still the better team,” White said.
In the shootout, Jones’ opening salvo was batted away by Fazekas. GRFC took a 3-2 lead in the penalties, poised for the road win.
Then Joe White made a save, scored a penalty, and salted the game away with a final save.
As he extolled his teammates postgame, several players got their hands on a megaphone.
“Jo-seph! Jo-seph! Jo-seph!” they chanted.