On Monday, September the 18th, Hurricane Jose loomed hundreds of miles off the Carolina coast but still managed to send strong winds and the occasional rain bands. The weather was not perfect by any means, but well enough to get the conference match in between Manteo and Perquimans. Manteo would host Perquimans, an up and coming program under their new coach, Taylor Smith.
The game kicked off with fair conditions as there was just the strong occasional gust of wind. Manteo seemed focused on the task at hand from the start. The Redskins would dominate possession early and often. The ball would move at a quicker pace around the pitch than the past couple games as Manteo looked to find the openings of the Perquimans back line.
Early in the first half, with just five minutes off the clock, Manteo would take the lead. Again it was the deadly combination of Hernandez and Klotz getting it done. Taylor would win the ball off a Perquimans throw-in near midfield. Klotz would check back to the ball right at the midfield line, and square the ball to Hernandez. Klotz would then peel off and make his run up the gut. Hernandez took a touch, cut the ball back, letting his defender pass him by, and then played a perfectly weighted through ball to a streaking Klotz. Klotz first used his size and strength to win position with his defender. Upon edging the defender out of the way with his shoulder, Klotz found his target and placed the ball low just past the outstretched leg of the Perquimans keeper. Manteo was on the scoreboard early this time and seemed primed to add to it, although that would prove not to be the case.
Perquimans continued to stay in their defensive shape, trusting the scoring to the likes of their skilled attackers up top. While Perquimans looked to pass the ball at times on the ground, they still favored the long and direct approach when given the opportunity as they have in the past. Manteo would see the speed of one of Perquimans attackers, number 5, as the Pirates won the ball in their defensive third, catching Manteo’s backline up high on the pitch. They sent a long ball over top. Perquimans number 5 outran the entire backline to get his first touch on the ball just outside the 18-yard box. However, as he looked to take a second touch to set his shot, Sam Diaz recovered beautifully as he read his second touch and took the ball away immediately, and played it out for Manteo to retain possession. Perquimans would test the Manteo defense once more in the middle of the first half when the Pirate’s number 7 was awarded too much space 30 yards in front of the goal. Number 7 would have a crack from deep and struck it well. The ball sailed high, just over the outstretched fingers of the keeper, Trent Jones Jr., striking the post, and continuing up and over the crossbar. It seemed to lead the Manteo defense to the realization that they would need to stay focused all match long, and for the most part, they did.
The Manteo defense would go on to have a great game. They used their outside backs, Diaz and Pendleton, to push up and overload each flank at various times. Center backs, Casey, and Velasco played intelligently throughout the match, anticipating and cleaning up long balls and through balls. Despite deteriorating conditions in the second half with the rain and the wind, Manteo would hold strong for their fourth consecutive shutout.
The second half proved to be a bit more interesting than the first half, even though there were no goals scored. With the narrow lead over Perquimans, the Pirates felt they were one fortunate strike away from tieing the game. Manteo on the other end seemed to feel a bit of pressure as they continued to struggle to score. They dominated the run of play, obtaining one scoring opportunity after another, but were unable to finish. The cross was always just off, or the final touch was poor, or the shot would sail wide or over the crossbar. Manteo even failed to convert a low cross tap-in goal on the two-yard line with an open goal. The half was also marred by obscure and incorrect calls on both sides of the ball, along with long delays, abating the flow of the game.
Manteo held on to win the match 1-0. They are now 3-0 in conference play.
Despite the low number of goals being scored recently, Manteo is playing great soccer. They are defending intelligently, possessing the ball in a dominant manner, showing patience in their attack, and attacking in various fashions. Center midfielder Eric Hernandez is also growing into his new position and is a controlling force in every facet of Manteo’s game. Center back Jose Velasco seems to be rebounding from an ankle injury, showing more energy and creativity in his defending and distribution out of the backfield. The Redskins seem strong all over the pitch, and yet they feel free to send in constant substitutions that provide excellent minutes, seeming to be one of Manteo’s deepest teams in years. The question going forward will be, can they finish?
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, ” I was pleased with our effort on the pitch tonight, and our style of play. We focused a bit last week on bringing more intensity into our play, and feel this was a step in the right direction. This was a hard-fought game with a strong conference opponent, in less than favorable conditions. Another win and another shutout are all I can ask for.”