Mike Sutton wasn’t allowed to start LIU Post’s NCAA Division II soccer tournament game on Saturday, but the sophomore defender certainly had the final say on how it finished.
Only moments before opening kickoff, the Norwegian native was ordered off the field by game officials because he was wearing earrings, which are banned.
It took a while before the earrings could be removed. If they weren’t, Sutton would not have had an opportunity to set up Charlie Ledula’s game-winning goal at 85:09, which boosted the Pioneers to a 2-1 East Region second-round victory over the University of District of Columbia in Brookville.
“You can’t make it up, can you?” Post coach Andreas Lindberg said with a laugh.
It certainly wasn’t a laughing matter to Sutton when referee Noel Cotterell ordered him off the field.
“I always had my ears pierced the whole season,” he said. “He told me as we were singing the national I couldn’t play. Obviously upset. I had to get them cut off.”
Sutton was so angered that he took his No. 17 white jersey off and threw it into the team dugout.
“It’s his fault,” Lindberg said. “He shouldn’t have earrings. That’s the rule.
“It changes things for us. We had prepared all week him starting as a left back. Good thing we have an experienced player [Oliver Bennett] who can jump in. But that’s difficult.”
The earrings were so difficult to remove that a college worker worked on Sutton for most of the opening half. He finally entered the game for injured right back Nico Anderson late in the first half.
“Luckily, I got the second to last kick to finish the game off,” said Sutton, who registered his first assist this season. “Super happy.”
That came as overtime loomed. The overlapping Sutton sent a right-wing cross into the box to Ledula, who headed a 10-yard shot past goalkeeper Ever Alvarez to snap a 1-1 deadlock with his 13th goal.
“I saw Michael get the ball and I said, ‘Just let me attack the near post,’ “ Ledula said. “I just went free and thankfully it went in.”
The Pioneers (17-0-2) dominated early. They grabbed the lead on Lukas Ostermann’s 17th goal as he dribbled around defenders in the area. The Firebirds (15-7) equalized on Kelvin Herrera’s five-yard shot at 23:19.
Post has defeated D.C three times in a month.
“We just played them a week ago, same team, same field, how do you get reset for that?” Lindberg said about the East Coast Conference championship game. “It’s difficult. Very pleased to beat a good, quality team like that.”
In the third round this week Post will play Adelphi, the winner over Goldey-Beacom on Saturday night.
Post will be ready for more quality sides in the tournament.
“They have a desire to really not lose,” Lindberg said. “They hate to lose more than they love to win. That’s a good mindset for it. Never give up and keep going.”