The Albermarle Athletic Conference play would come to an end on Monday, the 22nd day of October. Manteo would face off against Edenton for their third match-up of the season, and the second consecutive game. In their first match-up, Manteo defeated the Aces by a score of 7-1 and by a score of 9-0 in last weeks fixture. While Manteo was dominating in their previous encounters, Edenton is still not a team to be taken lightly as they have one of the conference’s better strikers roaming atop that can bust one at any time.
As the game kicked-off, Manteo took early control of possession and kept the ball on their offensive side of the field. Edenton made several notable adjustments to start the fixture. Their top striker, number 17, was dropped back into a center-defensive midfield role. The switch suggested a keen focus of simply keeping the scoreline respectable, as opposed to 9-0. The strategy would work, at least for the first half.
Despite a plethora of scoring opportunities, Manteo would only put one shot in the back of the net during the first half. The home side seemed to be playing a bit too reserved and comfortable, just waiting for goals to happen, instead of making them happen.
The goal itself, however, was pure class. Erik Hernandez collected the ball in the midfield and found vertical space with only a defensive midfielder pressuring him from the side. Hernandez dribbled down the pitch with the defender trying to recover into a better position. Hernandez stepped over the ball, faking to his right and then cut it back to his left, atop the box. The backline defenders were now stepping up to close on the ball but Hernandez fired a bullet with his left foot that split three defenders and blistered the far-post side netting.
The goal took place just ten minutes into the first half, but Edenton would hold strong for the rest of the half. As the minutes ticked by, Edenton grew a bit more confident with the 1-0 scoreline. The away side was pleased to enter the half with that score.
The Redskins discussed their tactical changes at the half, insisting on using more width with quicker diagonal balls out of the midfield. In the second half, the tactic was applied and the floodgates opened up.
Manteo found their focus to start the second half and looked to reassert their dominance. Their touch was clean, their passes were quick and efficient, and shots were on target.
Eight minutes into the second half, Manteo took a corner kick and a crowded 18-yard box would result in the ball bouncing about the sea of bodies. It popped out to Yeifer Perez who would attempt to thread the needle. The shot deflected over to Hernandez and he would try the same. The shot again deflected off a defender and made its way towards the back post, outside the crowded zone. Noah Goetsch had been holding his space and pounced on the ball that squirted his way. He calmly placed the ball past the pressing defender and sliding keeper to double the score.
Minutes later another corner kick was won by the Redskins. The first ball in by Hernandez was low and deflected back out towards him. Hernandez tracked it down outside of the box and quickly sent a beautiful curling cross back into the box. The Edenton side has looked to quickly push out of the box upon the first clearance, leaving lots of space for the ball to be played into. Yeifer Perez was on the same page as Hernandez and made crashing run for the bending ball in. Perez opted to leave his feet and attempt a flying volley. His touch sent the ball flying over the crossbar. His attempt received cheers from the crowd.
Manteo’s backline had little difficult defending to do with the Aces top striker focusing on defense for the game. The one deep run Edenton’s number 17 made up the gut at pace was snuffed out by a hard-nosed sliding tackle by Jose Velasco.
Noah Goetsch has been finding his finishing form as of late and would net the third goal of the game for the Redskins. Hernandez played an early diagonal ball out wide to Joe Zafra who then sent a lofty cross into the middle of the box. The ball bounced passed Hayman and his defender and made its way to the far post. Again, Goetsch was holding his space out wide, timed his run on the ball in, and hit it on the half-volley. Goetsch crushed it into the far-post side netting.
The game really began to loosen up in favor of the Redskins at this point. The Aces kept their defensive mindset but it was being rendered futile by the prolific layered attack of the Redskins.
As the Aces took a throw in their midfield, an errant throw sent the ball directly to Manteo’s left-back, William Pendleton. Pendleton made a strong header forward, spitting two defenders, and playing striker, Andrew Hayman, into space behind the line. Hayman found himself making a run into the box with two defenders in pursuit and only the keeper to beat. The keeper stayed on his line for a second too long, and when he did move forward, he opened up the far post with poor positioning. Hayman struck it to the far side to make it 4-0.
Miscommunication on by the Aces defense lead to Manteo’s fifth goal. Brayan Hernandez whipped a ball in from near the sideline on the right flank. Two defenders and the keeper all looked at each other as the ball entered the top of the six-yard box. They all seemed to expect the other to play it out and the ball squirted right past all three of them. Hernandez had kept his track on the ball and happily obliged to tap it in from three yards out as the ball fell right to his right foot.
A few minutes later, Landon Taylor would add to the flood of goals with a clinical strike from outside the box. He received a pass from Hernandez out of the midfield, turned towards goal, touched it wide around his defender and ripped it into the bottom corner of the far-post side-netting.
Herandez would net yet another hat-trick on the season as he drove the ball at pace right up the gut towards the top of the box. Upon meeting the backline defenders atop the box, he laid the ball off to his right with the outside of his foot and bent his run off to the left. Four defenders followed the ball, looking to win it first, but it was Ryan McOwen getting the first touch on the ball in the box. McOwen simply one-touched it right back over to Hernandez now all alone in front of the left post. Hernandez placed it by the keeper towards the far post to make it 7-0.
Noah Goetsch received the second hat-trick of the match with Manteo’s final goal in the waning minutes. Brayan Hernandez made a deep run into the far right corner, beating his two defenders before playing a beautiful far post cross. The ball found Goetsch awaiting the ball atop the six-yard box. Goetsch headed the ball straight down towards goal. Hayman had been tracking the ball back as well and as he turned to watch Goetsch head it down, he lifted his leg up in front of the keeper in an effort to redirect the ball away from the keeper. Hayman did not touch the ball but faked out the keeper, and the ball bounced between the keeper’s legs for Manteo’s eighth goal of the evening.
The win made Manteo 12-0 in conference play and your 2018 Albermarle Athletic Conference undefeated champions!
Manteo had 6 corner kicks, 31 total shots, with 15 shots on target. Edenton had two soft shots on target that Jones Jr. collected with no problem.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “It is incredibly difficult to beat any team three times in a row. It is even more difficult for young players to be mentally ready after beating teams twice before by a large margin. We were not necessarily 100% dialed in during the first half, but we made the appropriate half-time adjustments and came out and played like the champions we are in the second half. I am incredibly proud of this group of young men for once again remaining perfect through conference play.”