On the evening of September the 20th, Manteo traveled to Edenton to take on the Aces in their fourth conference match-up of the season. This game would wrap up the first time seeing each conference opponent once, and this year, all conference opponents face off three times each. The matchup on paper looked intriguing as the Edenton Aces seemed to have a high-powered offense, scoring a plethora of goals in numerous matches, while the stout Manteo defense has yet to allow a conference opponent to score on them. Manteo was primed to prove their defense can shut out any opposing team, and their offense can be just as prolific as well.
Manteo kicked off as the sun sett, and gnats rose from the surrounding fields. The first ten minutes of play would be mostly a battle for possession in the midfield as both teams seemed to still be warming up to their touch on the ball, and the weight of their passes. As the game wore on, Manteo began to dominate more and more possession.
Manteo would get on the scoreboard first and early as Manteo won possession of the ball off of a Redskin throw in. Manteo’s Randall Klotz would lay the ball off inside the top of the box for Landon Taylor. Taylor would take a touch towards goal, placing it a bit too far in front as both Taylor and Ace’s keeper raced for the ball. Both players meet the ball on the ground at the same time and the keeper was unable to corral it. The ball squirted out to the side, and Klotz was there to clean it up for his first goal of the evening.
Feeling a bit of momentum, Manteo would score again within the next minute of play. The Redskins would press hard to win the ball back quickly off the kickoff. Taylor was the one to win it, playing Eric Hernandez in the midfield. Hernandez would take a touch, and play Klotz on a diagonal ball out wide. Klotz would draw three defenders, cut the ball back nicely with his eyes up and play an easy pass across the box to Hernandez who was waiting to tap it in. In the span of two minutes of play, Manteo found themselves up 2-0.
Manteo continued to control the game through the first half until Edenton was awarded a free kick just near the midfield line. The Aces sent a long ball into the box. The Redskins got their head on the ball, but the execution of the clearing header was lacking as it sent the ball into the right corner of the 18-yard box. An Edenton Ace chested the ball, bringing it down. Both Taylor and Pendleton of Manteo rushed to the ball but failed to win the ball with half-hearted challenges. The Edenton player found his way through just several yards from goal and placed the ball on the ground across the goal and into the back of the net. Manteo seemed stunned by the goal, and a momentary lack of focus had allowed Edenton the crawl back into the game.
Manteo would regroup, and play well the next twenty minutes of the first half. They found success in their high press as Klotz and Hernandez lead the way on the press for others to follow suit. Pressing the Aces backline continuously throughout the evening would pay off in the end for the Redskins.
Manteo would enter the half still up by a score of 2-1.
In the first half, Klotz and Hernandez found little room to operate as they were man-marked and accounted for at all times. In the second half, they created more off the ball movement to open up space for others, and in return, allow themselves to be open more often. The second half would be all Manteo as they found an energy and life in the likes of Barker and Taylor in the backfield, and Hernandez and Klotz up front.
Manteo’s third goal of the evening was all Klotz. Edenton’s center back found the ball at his feet and felt he had a second to scan the field. However, Klotz pressed him hard, taking the ball off his feet and finding himself one on one with the keeper. The keeper came out, and Klotz touched it around him and passed the ball into the goal.
The Redskins would keep the 0-0 mentality and stay hungry for more goals. They would cushion their lead further with an Edwin Perez goal. Manteo received a throw-in deep in Edenton’s defensive third after Klotz’s shot from deep was saved by the keeper. Off of the throw-in, Klotz would head the ball in the middle of the box. J Zafra would gather, drawing two defenders and Zafra looked to fire on goal, only to have it blocked by the defenders. The ball bounced nicely to Perez, who collected on his first touch, bringing the ball down, and placing the ball in the right corner of the goal with his left foot on his second touch.
Five minutes later, Hernandez would add to the tally. Upon receiving the ball atop the outer left corner of the 18-yard box, Hernandez took a touch inside setting up a right-footed strike. The strike was right at the keeper, but the keeper mishandled the ball and let it run through his legs, making it 5-1. Scoring his second goal of the evening seemed to make Hernandez hungry for the hat trick.
Just three minutes later, Hernandez would complete his first hat trick of the season. Receiving the ball in almost the exact same location as his previous goal, Hernandez took three tight touches around two defenders to find the space for his shot. This time he left no doubt upon the quality of the goal as the strike was pure class. The ball sailed across the goal into the far right upper ninety corner, striking the bottom of the crossbar and in. Manteo was now on top 6-1.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Manteo would make numerous substitutes. The run of play evened back out, and with just 20 seconds left on the clock, the Manteo defenders left to much space for an attacking Ace. The attacker struck the ball low and hard across the goal, placing it by the keeper, Trent Jones Jr, for their second goal. The game would with a score of 6-2.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “This was a great win for us on the road. Edenton is a good team, and very capable of putting the ball in the net. We held strong defensively for the most part and took it to them offensively. As the game wore on, our high press became more and more effective as the players bought into it, and executed it more efficiently. Christian Barker, Landon Taylor, and Brandon Martinez-Gonzalez did a tremendous job rotating in and out of the central defensive midfield positions. They helped slow down and disrupt the Edenton attack. Randall Klotz was a lively striker tonight, leading the press, and making things happen all night long. Eric Hernandez controlled the midfield brilliantly all night long and found his scoring boots with a hat-trick. Also, I felt Edwin Perez played a terrific game on both sides of the ball. He was required to go forward in our attack out wide, but also to constantly trek back and mark up their overloads in their attacking flank. He was in the correct position at all times. All in all, I am pleased with the victory, and feel we are playing great soccer as of now.”