Camden Keeper Stands on His Head

On Monday, the 15th day of October, the Camden Bruins traveled to Manteo to face off for the third and final conference game of the season between the two rivals. Manteo had previously defeated Camden by scores of 3-0 and 4-0. Camden is a defensive minded team, focusing first on making it extremely difficult to score through the plethora of defenders at the back while allowing their talented striker to work solo up top.

On this evening, Manteo created great scoring opportunities early and often, yet the Camden keeper stood on his head throughout the entire game making the game a close one.

In the first minute of the game, Manteo was on the attack as Erik Hernandez made his way up the right slot, drawing defenders and the keeper over as he made his way deep into the box. Upon reaching the corner of the six-yard box, Hernandez cut the ball back on the ground looking for Joe Zafra, positioned nicely in the middle. The center-back on Zafra made a slight touch on the ball, deflecting it behind Zafra. Noah Goetsch was making a well-timed run in from the left flank and the ball fell nicely for him atop the six-yard box. Goetsch looked to place it in the near-post side netting, yet the keeper moved quickly from the opposite post into a baseball slide to make a brilliant kick-save off the line.

Just a minute later, Hernandez was back working the right slot. He found Zafra early in the final third and Zafra played a wall pass back to Hernandez to make his run through the backline. He received the ball back from Hernandez and fired a low, hard shot. The keeper got down to get a slight hand on it and the ball continued past him towards goal. The ball was deflected just enough to redirect it, clanking off the post and back out to be cleared by Camden.

Within the next two minutes of the game, the Redskins would again surely have a goal, but they were again stonewalled. Ryan McOwen made a scorching run down the right-wing into the corner of the box. He crushed a cross that found a direct line to the keeper on the near post. The ball had too much heat on it to catch, so the keeper knocked it down. The ball bounced nicely to Hernandez on the follow-up and he looked to place it in the corner. The made a terrific reactionary save, laying out quickly to again block the second attempt. The ball again bounced out to Goetsch but his follow up attempt was placed wide of the goal.

In the first five minutes of the game, it seemingly should have been 3-0, yet it stood at a nil-nil scoreline. Soccer is a beautiful game, yet it can most certainly be a cruel game as well.

Manteo continued to control the tempo of the game through their possession. Fifteen minutes into the game, Camden had yet to find an offensive opportunity against the Redskins. Manteo would finally capitalize on one.

Hernandez collected a  ball in the center midfield, turned and looked forward. He faced the entire backline with their holding midfielder pressing towards him as well. He dribbled at pace directly at the center-back, made a slight feint inside and then pushed the ball past and between the center and outside back. Hernandez kicked it into fifth gear to position himself on the ball as it entered the left side of the 18-yard box. He struck it well with his left foot and placed it nicely in the far-post side netting. For the Camden keeper, there was no saving this one.

Minutes later, Manteo looked to double the score when Goetsch received a well-played diagonal ball on the left wing from Hernandez and then played it back into the box to find a streaking Landon Taylor on a deep run out of the midfield. Taylor was under pressure upon receiving the ball. As he collected from the left, he spun 270 degrees back to the inside with the ball, shielding it from the defender, and fired a shot on goal. It was a brilliant turn but the shot was directed at the keeper and he instinctually made the save.

Camden would then get their one chance on goal, and boy was it a good look. A quick long ball out of the midfield seemed to surprise the Manteo center-backs. The Bruin’s center forward read it all the way, getting the jump on both Casey and Velasco. It played him in one on one with Manteo keeper, Jones Jr. The striker took a touch to the outside as he entered the box due to the presence of Casey on his left. On the final touch before the shot, Jones Jr. sprinted off his line, made himself big, and lept at the ball. Upon the shot, Jones Jr. deflected it out with his leg, keeping the score going into halftime at 1-0.

Manteo made a few changes at halftime, looking to utilize more width. Right from the start, Manteo earned more great scoring opportunities.

Early in the second half, Hernandez received a square ball across the top of the box. With his back to the goal, he faked a pass out to the overlapping Perez, and then pulled it back in, while turning to face the goal. He quickly launched a cannon of a shot in between two Bruin defenders that knuckled its way towards the goal. The keeper was a bit lost on the shot and missed it as the ball passed him but detonated upon the crossbar, up and out of bounds.

Taylor and Hernandez would again create brilliant build-up play amongst themselves, working the ball down into the corner of the box for Taylor to fire off a close shot that the keeper would knock down. Hernandez was again there for the follow up with the keeper struggling to recover but his shot was placed just wide of the far post.

Manteo would finally get their second goal off a corner kick in which Hernandez played a nice ball into Zafra. Zafra crashed hard on and just put his body on the ball, knocking it into the back of the net.

Ten minutes after the going up 2-0, Manteo would relinquish their clean sheet with poor defending at the back. A long ball sent down by the Bruins was tracked down in the corner by their winger. He blindly kicked into the middle of the box. The ball in split the legs of Casey (the on-ball defender), and squirted just by the cleats of Martinez-Gonzalez and Perez. The Bruin striker made a well-timed run, made one collecting touch, and then taped it into the far-post side netting. The Bruins were ecstatic to score their first goal of the season on the Redskins and to be in a 2-1 game all the sudden.

Manteo continued to control possession amidst a more lively Bruin squad but their finishing touch was not there. Hernandez would create space for himself atop the box in a sea of bodies, and launch a curling shot that sent the Camden keeper sprawling on the save. He knocked it down and McOwen sprinted in to clean it up. McOwen struck it low and hard towards the far post, yet the keeper made yet another kick-save of which he may have known little about.

Manteo continued to pepper the keeper through the remaining minutes of the game but to no avail. The keeper continued to stand tall.

The Manteo defense tightened up defensively, lead by Jose Velasco.

The game would end in a 2-1 result in favor of Manteo. With the win, your Redskins mathematically clinched another conference title.

On the game, Manteo had 7 corner kicks, 20 total shots with 10 of them on target. Trent Jones Jr. had 3 saves against the Bruins.

Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “Overall we played well but there are several little things we need to tighten up on. We need to heighten our mental focus overall, make smarter decisions at the back and anticipate more. Up top, we need to find out finishing touch to put games out of reach early. With that being said, it was great that we tested for the first time in a long while. We needed that wake-up call. It will serve us well going forward.”

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