On Wednesday, September the 13th, the sun came out of hiding to heat things up, just as the Albermarle Athletic Conference play is heating up as well. Manteo would face off against long time conference rival, Camden, on the road. It seems as if these two teams are always competing for the conference title every year, and the stage was set for their first of three conference meetings. Despite the usual angst and energy from both sides, both Manteo and Camden began the game in a docile manner.
Manteo kicked off and passed the ball around the back field comfortably and up into the midfield. Their passes were accurate and layered, however, the pace at which the ball was being passed around the pitch allowed Camden to effectively remain in their defensive shape. Manteo dominated possession and passed patiently around the pitch while favoring the left attacking flank.
Manteo’s first look at goal would come three minutes into the game as the center midfielder, Eric Hernandez, would maintain possession off of a Manteo throw-in, turn and face the goal, and play a well-weighted through past the striker, Randall Klotz. Klotz ran onto the ball as the Camden keeper came out to the ball. The keeper slid, missing the ball, but under heavy defensive pressure from the center back, and the keeper, Klotz could only get a slight touch on the ball, placing it just wide of the right post.
Nine minutes into the first half, Manteo would threaten the goal again with a beautiful cross from deep within the right side of the pitch by J Zafra. The ball would sail past the Camden defenders and their goalie to find the left midfielder, Noah Goetsch, waiting on the far post. Goetsch timed his run perfectly and did everything right but the final touch into the net. The ball slide right off his foot and back wide out of play. While the attempt did not result in a goal, it gave Manteo a touch of momentum and heightened the pressure that had been mounting on the Bruin defense. A minute later, Manteo’s Hernandez would place a low strike on goal that the keeper just managed to touch out around the goal post for a corner kick.
Throughout the first half, Manteo’s defense would hold strong whenever tested by the Bruin attack. Manteo defenders played intelligently all night long. They contained attackers and waited patiently before making their tackle to win the ball, and then found simple distribution out of the backfield. On the rare occasions of bouncing balls sent towards the backline with heavy pressure, the Manteo back line put their foot through the ball to nullify the threat with ease and then regrouped to defend as a unit. Outside backs William Pendleton and Sam Diaz defended well all game long while providing excellent overlapping runs to join the attack, and center defensive midfielder Landon Taylor provided early pressure to attackers and was the passing link between the backline and the Manteo attackers.
Late in the first half, Manteo would finish their first goal of the match. A throw in on the left side at midfield, lead to two Camden defenders attempting to win the ball in the air, missing, and allowing the ball to fall to the feet of Hernandez. Hernandez turned and stared down the Bruin center back to freeze him, and Klotz made a well timed diagonal run. Hernandez played a well-weighted ball through the backline, and Klotz used his size and strength to hold off his defender, making one touch with the outside of his right foot to place the ball near post past the keeper and into the back of the net. Manteo would lead at halftime, 1-0.
Manteo came out of half time with a bit more energy and seemed hungry leave Camden County with a victory. The Redskins would continue to dominate the passing game and that would prove worthy of another goal ten minutes into the second half. Manteo’s second goal was a brilliant example of possessing the ball out of the backfield and utilizing patience in finding the correct pass for the best shot. Keeper Trent Jones Jr. would roll the ball out wide to left-back, Sam Diaz. Diaz would take three touches up field before playing Hernandez in the middle of the pitch. Hernandez would square the ball on one touch back wide to right midfielder, Zafra. Zafra would play right back to Hernandez on the move through the middle. Drawing defenders inside, Hernandez would once again play the ball back out wide to Zafra streaking down the wing. Zafra would win the ball deep and wide within the 18-yard box, as he cut it back, picked his head up and dropped the ball to Taylor at the top center of the box. Taylor played directly to Hernandez who had posted up deep inside the box surrounded by Bruins. Hernandez turned the ball on the first touch and struck it well on the second touch. The ball flew into the back of the net for Manteo’s second goal.
Manteo would hold off the Camden Bruins for the rest of the half to finish with the 2-0 victory on the road. The victory makes Manteo 2-0 for their conference record and 4-3-1 with their overall record.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, ” I am pleased with the win and the shutout on the road. We are moving the ball well around the pitch, and defending more intelligently each game. Going forward, I have no doubt we will be the most skilled team on the pitch the rest of the season, but I also want to see that we are always also the hardest working and most physical team on the pitch as well. Our young team is growing and learning and we are certainly trending in the right direction.”