On Wednesday, September 26th, your Manteo Redskins traveled to Camden for a conference rematch. In their previous match, Camden chose to pack it in and defend with nine defenders the entire game. It was a frustrating tactic for Manteo, but they were able to overcome it in the second half of the game, eventually winning the game by a score of 3-0. In the second fixture, Camden was short two of their starters due to an injury and a suspension, and they chose to vary their tactics a bit. They were not quite as conservative at the back and looked for opportunities to push forward even though they found those opportunities to be minimal against the Manteo squad.
In game one of the series, Manteo racked up a plethora of shots, but they could not find the back of the net, especially early on. This game proved to be quite the opposite as Manteo’s midfielders were locked in on goal during the first half.
The Redskins controlled the ball early and often as they have become accustomed to this year. In the first eight minutes, they controlled possession but did not attempt a shot on goal. Their first attempt on goal came off great build-up play that drew the ball all over the pitch from the left wing, through the midfield and backline and back out to the right wing. Attacking midfielder, Erik Hernandez played the creative ball over the top of the Bruin’s left-back for the winger, Ryan McOwen. Mcowen attempted to turn the corner but opted to play it safe and turned back. Hernandez had supported his pass, moving into the top right corner of the 18-yard box. McOwen played Hernandez. Hernandez collected and drew the ball back inside to his left. The Bruin center-back followed. Hernandez paused with the ball to freeze his defender and then burst back to his left to create space off the defender atop the box. He calmly ripped a left-footed strike that slotted the upper-ninety corner and left the keeper stunned. The early goal put the Redskins at ease and forced Camden to open up a little more.
Minutes later, the Camden defense made a poor clearance out of their back left, defensive third. They cleared the ball right to the top of the box. Carter Calvio read it and ran in hard from the left wing position. Calvio opted for a one time strike as it was set up perfectly for him. He crushed it from 25 yards out. The ball bent over and around the keeper off the line and clanked the crossbar, leaving the entire goal shaking in its wake.
While Manteo often passed circles around the Bruins with the ball on the ground, they also found they could play more creative diagonal balls in the air as they would sit nicely behind the line in the tall grass. The variation of balls in the final third was exactly what the Manteo coaching staff had preached during their first match-up. Hernandez led the way in creativity in the first half, coupled with mid-field play by Landon Taylor. However, it was Hernandez that stole the show in the first half as he netted a hat-trick long before the first half was over.
Hernandez’s second goal began as he collected the ball near the mid-field line and dribbled up the pitch. There were several defenders around him as he dribbled but not one of them really cared to pressure him heavily. Therefore, he continued to dribble through the traffic to the top of the box and then fancied a strike on goal. It was low and well placed into the left corner of the goal. The goalie’s vision of the shot may have been blocked from the sea of bodies in front of the box as his reaction was sparse.
Hernadez cemented the hat-trick not long after his second goal when a counter-attack led Manteo’s Taylor chasing a ball into the box only to be beaten by the keeper. The ball was softly cleared out atop the box. Hernandez took one quick touch to somewhat knock the ball down as a defender pressed him. His second touch was a shot on the half-volley, and he again found the bottom, left corner of the goal. With the touch, the half-volley, and the lack of celebration, you could see the confidence on the ball growing for Hernandez.
Manteo was off to an early 3-0 lead but they focused on finishing the half strong to send a message. The Redskins fourth goal would again come from playing the ball out wide to space out the compact Bruin defense, only to pump the ball back atop the 18-yard box. McOwen would receive the ball in the right corner of the final third, draw two defenders and then play it back to Taylor, awaiting in space amidst the top of the box. Taylor collected one the first touch, and then hit a banger, in the left, top-shelf. He knew the strike was a goal as soon as he hit it, therefore, he calmly turned to walk back after watching it sail into the back of the net.
Manteo would enter halftime with a 4-0 lead over the Bruins.
The second half began with much of the same play as in the first half. Manteo continued to dominate possession in the midfield and looked for creative play in the final third. Hernandez was aggressive early on, but could not find that finishing touch he had in the first half. Sam Diaz was Manteo’s most aggressive and energetic player of the second half. Diaz played wonderful balls out of the holding midfield position and made numerous overlapping runs to find shots on target for himself. While he did not net a goal in the half, he racked up four shots on target and kept the Bruin keeper plenty busy.
Manteo’s backline was not called into action often but when they were, they answered the call. There were a few small mistakes made in the back due to a lack of focus and involvement, but they were able to quickly correct their mistakes. The Manteo defense and keeper Trent Jones Jr. tallied their fourth clean sheet in a row as Manteo won the game with a 4-0 scoreline.
The evolution of Manteo’s system is transpiring as the season progresses. They are now consistently controlling the tempo and style of play by possessing the ball and dominating the midfield play. Their passing play is frustrating the opponents and wearing defenses down over the course of the game.
During the game, Manteo had 6 corners, 24 total shots, and 14 shots on target. Trent Jones Jr. had 4 saves on the evening.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “It was great to get the early goal which allowed us to relax and just play our game. We are really coming together in our new formation and players are learning their new roles and positions. The midfield combo of Diaz, Taylor, and Hernandez is top quality and I’d put them to the test against any other midfield in the state. We are learning to include variation and creativity in the final third and it is making a difference in the scorelines.”
Manteo is now 8-1 overall with a 4-0 conference record.