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Celtic United earn chance for Tehel Cup glory behind Schulz, Smith

One of the beauties of soccer is that a match can change in an instant; fortunes can change in a blink of an eye.

In a 90-minute match that featured just one goal, a 20-second segment was the difference in Celtic United's 1-0 win over Rogue FC in the Tehel Cup semifinals Thursday at Nichols School.

Rogue's Kyle Kleckner bulldozed forward from his holding midfield position with the ball at his feet, only to meet a sliding two-footed tackle from Kyle Wiatrowski of Celtic United. As Kleckner crumpled to the turf and his teammates clamored for a whistle, the head official called to play on.

The first touch after the tackle was a long ball hoofed toward Rogue's goal; United striker Patrick Schulz then bore down on center back Chris Cary and goalkeeper Alex Bratos.

Francesco Strangio, in white, battles for a loose ball with Celtic United's Luke Loecher. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Francesco Strangio, in white, battles for a loose ball with Celtic United's Luke Loecher. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

"I didn't really think I was going to get [to the ball]," Schulz said after the match. "The defender was shielding me off and the goalie [was there], but I saw some miscommunication so I just went for it.

"Luckily, the goalie popped it out and I was able to just cross it in -- I saw the goal, hit it with my left foot, and luckily it just rolled in."

[Read: Scores and sums from the BDSL playoffs' quarterfinal matches]

As Schulz celebrated and his teammates returned to their side of midfield, a flurry of Rogue players surrounded the referee, arguing loudly for punishment for the two-footed tackle, contesting why a foul wasn't called on Wiatrowski's slide.

Julian Cenzi, No. 8 in white, slides to win a tackle from Celtic United's Vinny DiVirgilio. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Julian Cenzi, No. 8 in white, slides to win a tackle from Celtic United's Vinny DiVirgilio. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

"The ball got away from Kyle [Wiatrowski] a little bit, then he went in [on the tackle] and got all ball, but the guy [Kleckner] just got the worst of it at the end," recalled Chris Barbolini, Celtic United's terrific center back. "As they were complaining, they just got caught off guard and Schulz took advantage of it."

Although possession may have swung slightly in Rogue's favor -- but no more than 55-45 -- there's no question the better chances were created by the losing side. Celtic United goalkeeper Nick Smith was called upon early and often, beginning with a diving touch to redirect a curling Zack Schmidt strike off the right post in the 18th minute, then keenly pushing away a heavy left-footed shot from Rogue's Braden Scales.

Rogue's Zack Schmidt rises for a header as the sun sets on Nichols' turf field. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Rogue's Zack Schmidt rises for a header as the sun sets on Nichols' turf field. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

[Look back at BN Soccer's live-tweeting of the match for further details]

Inside the first 10 minutes of the second half, Smith foiled two more Rogue chances; Hunter Walsh cracked a shot near post, forcing Smith to get his mitts up quickly, then Schmidt tried to cut a right-footed shot to the left post, but it didn't have enough mustard to squeak past the diving United keeper.

United squandered a golden opportunity to pull ahead in the 66th minute, as a handball on Rogue right back Julian Cenzi in the 18-yard box gave Steve Carcaterro a chance from the spot, but Rogue keeper Alex Bratos was up to the challenge, keeping the match scoreless.

Sending numbers forward with abandon, Rogue saw one final chance in the 87th minute, as Schmidt drove into the box on the left slide and laid a pass off to Dan Pulaski on the edge of the six-yard box. The former Hilbert College player aimed to the left post, which was read and punched away by Smith yet again.

Rogue's bounty of chances to win wasn't lost on the Celtic United defenders.

"We got really lucky back there, it was definitely a really open game -- back and forth -- we're definitely fortunate that Schulz could put one in," Barbolini admitted.

Celtic United's Brian Theuerkauf, in black, exchanges pleasantries with Rogue's Evan Walsh. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Celtic United's Brian Theuerkauf, in black, exchanges pleasantries with Rogue's Evan Walsh. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

HE SAID IT: Schulz on the controversial tackle that immediately preceded his goal: "I wasn't even aware of that - I was so concerned about where the ball was going. I thought they were calling the foul on me because I was going in on the goalie."

WHAT'S NEXT: With the victory, Celtic United advance to face the Clarence Yotes at 8 p.m. Aug. 11 at Sweet Home High School, a neutral site. Celtic United have never hoisted a Tehel Cup trophy -- a 2012 loss in the finals to BSC Raiders was the closest they've come -- but United's old parent club, Celtic, won twice.

[Read: Clarence Yotes break down BSC Raiders in the other Tehel Cup semifinal]

Only three players remain on Celtic United, who were in the championship division at the time, from the 2012 tournament run: Tommy Huebsch, Carcaterro and Vinny DiVirgilio.

"This is my first Tehel Cup final, and I think it is for most of the rest of the guys," said Barbolini. "It's definitely exciting for us."

"Unfortunately we lost in the premier league playoffs," Schulz added, "but fortunately we have another shot at it next week."

Celtic United's Dan Warner looks up the line for teammate Brian Theuerkauf. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Celtic United's Dan Warner looks up the line for teammate Brian Theuerkauf. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

STARTING XIs

Celtic United: Nick Smith; Tommy Huebsch, Steve Carcaterro, Chris Barbolini, Dan Warner; Vinny DiVirgilio, Brian Theuerkauf, T.J. Kaszubski, Kyle Wiatrowski, Luke Loecher, Patrick Schulz

Rogue FC: Alex Bratos; Julian Cenzi, Taylor Baach, Chris Cary, Brett Lanham; Francesco Strangio, Evan Walsh, Braden Scales, Dan Pulaski; Hunter Walsh, Zack Schmidt

Email Ben Tsujimoto, whose fan broke, at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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