Season Opens With a Classic

It has been nearly a year and half since Manteo and First Flight have faced off against each other. In that time, so much has changed and everything is seemingly different. The dreary gloom of winter soccer adds an element of difficulty, along with players wearing a mask at all times. There are built in mask breaks, and limited fans in the stands due to COVID-19 protocols. While many things have changed during this unprecedented season, one thing that remains the same is the passion in which these two teams play with.

Both Manteo and First Flight saw their originally scheduled season openers canceled. First Flight’s game against Camden was postponed due to the weather, and Manteo’s opening fixture was canceled as Currituck’s team was put into quarantine protocol. Both teams were eager to find some semblance or normalcy and simply get on the pitch and play a match.

The game got off to a fast start with First Flight quickly establishing themselves on the ball while Manteo looked to remain organized in their defensive half. Manteo allowed possession in the midfield but looked to keep the ball in front of their low blocks to negate any threatening chances at goal.

Six minutes in the first half, Manteo executed a beautiful counter attack off a quick throw-in and a ball over the top. Along Manteo’s left midfield sideline, Irving Chavarria, threw the ball in to the feet of Oscar Rivera. Rivera settled the ball with a quality touch, while shielding off a hard pressing Nighthawk defender. Rivera turned forward into space along the left flank and picked his head up looking long. He quickly spotted a raised hand of right midfielder, Trent Hayman, sprinting from the right flank into the middle of the pitch. Rivera sent a long ball just over the head of a scrambling First Flight center-back. The Nighthawk goalkeeper came sprinting out and their was a misunderstanding between the goalkeeper and the center-back. As the ball bounced just outside the 18-yard box, Hayman quickly swooped in at full stride to carry the ball around the goalkeeper. He took two collecting touches and then passed the ball into an empty net.

In the spell of play after the first goal, the Nighthawks continued to control the run of play, but Manteo continued looking to make the most of counter attacking opportunities. Seven minutes after the first goal for Manteo, they found themselves with a free-kick in a dangerous attacking area. A foul was committed by a defending Nighthawk and the ball was spotted in the center of the pitch 35 yards from the goal-line. Manteo’s center attacking midfielder, Carter Calvio, stood over the ball, weighing his options as First Flight held their defensive line along the 18-yard line.

Calvio chipped the ball over the defensive line, landing near the penalty mark. The Nighthawk goalkeeper came off his line to collect the ball and both teams raced back into the box to fight for the ball. The goalkeeper tried to slide forward and catch the ball as it dropped quickly in front of him. The ball appeared to deflect off the goalkeeper’s legs and bounced sideways into the 18-yard box. Trent Hayman, proving early on to be ‘Johnny on the spot’, passed the ball into the an empty net yet again to give Manteo and early 2-0 lead.

It was a dream start for the Redskins against their cross town rivals but they knew their was an eternity to go to secure a win. Manteo continued to do well keeping the Nighthawk’s attack in front of their defensive line, limiting any real threatening chances on goal. As the game wore on and First Flight became more familiar with Manteo’s style of play, the Nighthawks seemed to increase their focus on the quality of the set pieces they were given.

Thirty one minutes into the first half, First Flight saw their best look as of yet on target. A free kick was awarded to the Nighthawks just inside in their own attacking half. First Flight’s number thirteen sent a long ball in to the top of the 18-yard box. Amongst a scrum of bodies battling for the ball in the air, a Nighthawk attacker won the rights to the first touch and flicked it behind with his head. A cleaver flick saw the ball traveling towards the goal-line, but Manteo’s goalkeeper, Cody Weaver, was able to dive towards his right and collect the ball cleanly.

Weaver was called into action just four minutes later after First Flight’s number seven played a creative ball into his forward making a diagonal run across the top of the 18-yard box. The forward took the ball off his chest and away from multiple pressing Manteo defenders and had a crack on the half-volley. Weaver dove to his right and strongly pushed the shot wide of his post with two hands.

The save by Weaver lead to a corner kick for First Flight. The Nighthawks grabbed the ball and played a short corner quickly while Manteo was still getting into their defensive corner set. The receiver of the short corner dodged a pressing Calvio, and then played a curling ball into the far post that saw multiple Nighthawks throw their bodies at the cross and the ball was knocked into the back of Manteo’s net to bring the score-line to 2-1 just before the half time whistle.

Manteo got off to another fast start in the beginning of the second half. Five minutes into the half, the Redskins earned a corner kick. Calvio sent a quality ball to his back post target. Andrew Hayman, gave his man-mark a Euro-step to loose him and get into the space to attack the ball in the air. In a crowded six-yard box. Hayman evaluated the highest, got his body on the ball and it bounced calmly into the back of net as the opposing goalkeeper never got a clean look at the ball coming off of Hayman.

Holding strong to a 3-1 lead with 35 minutes left to play, Manteo saw the Nighthawks increase their attacking prowess to full force in a necessary attempt to get back into the game. Ten minutes into the second half, the game saw the best pure strike on goal, and the best save of the game.

A Nighthawk central midfielder played a ball into the Manteo central defense that was won but not cleared. A First Flight attacker picked up the ball on the run, taking into space, fading from the center of the pitch to the right side of the 18-yard box. The attacker out paced his defender to get his shot off as he swung his hips around to get the strike on target and heading for the far-post side netting. It was a quality strike, struck pure with a bit of movement. Weaver had been led slightly towards his near post, following the run of play but quickly got his feet set to execute a fully extended power dive back towards his far post. Weaver was again able to get two strong hands on the ball and knock it wide.

Shortly after, a Nighthawk midfielder found himself with the ball in far left side of 18-yard box against two Manteo defenders. There was aggressive and physical play from both sides. When the ball was finally displaced from the attacker, he went to ground and was awarded with a penalty kick. The resulting penalty kick saw the ball furiously kiss the far right crossbar and sail into the peripheral woods. The Redskins could breathe easy, still holding onto a 3-1 lead.

Just minutes later, Manteo was inches away from putting the game out of reach. Redskins, Perez and Rivera helped to win the ball in the midfield from a Nighthawk backline clearance. Rivera found Calvio sitting in zone fourteen and he was able to flick the ball on for Andrew Hayman making a diagonal run off the right flank. Hayman beat his defender one on one near the edge six yard box and then squared the ball over to Aldo Herrera in front of the goal. Herrera was sandwiched by two Nighthawk defenders but got a first touch on the ball as they all scrambled for position. Herrera slipped on his first touch and as he quickly got back up, found the ball still under his foot to his surprise. His movement upon his recovery played the ball unknowingly just inches past a goalpost.

Unfortunately, five minutes later, Weaver was unable to get a strong hand to lofty, wind blown ball into the box. First Flight maintained possession upon a throw-in in their attacking third and a Nighthawk attacker sent a ball sailing towards the far-post. It’s the type of ball in which others may question if it was a cross or a shot. Any forward worth their weight will always claim ‘shot’. Regardless, the ball found the back of the net to allow momentum back in favor of the Nighthawks.

With seven minutes remaining on the clock, and Manteo holding on to a 3-2 lead, the Nighthawks continued to push everything forward. A Manteo goal-kick was won by the Nighthawks on their left flank near the midline. First Flight switched the field of play along the backline and then quickly looked to exploit a slow shifting backline of Manteo. The Nighthawk right-back sent a long ball forward to his winger and over the head of Manteo’s left-back. Manteo’s center-back, Yeifer Perez, was there to get a touch on the initial ball in. However, Perez was unlucky to see his touch away fall right to a attacking midfielder that found a quick one time touch back forward to the right winger. With the ball falling for the Nighthawk winger in the corner of the 18-yard box and no defender in position to slow his path to goal, Manteo’s Weaver came sprinting out to take the ball off his feet. The attacker was able to loft the ball over Weaver and into the far post side netting to the relief of the Nighthawks and the devastation of the Redskins.

The game concluded in a 3-3 draw.

Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “This is a solid result for us to start the season. Obviously we are disappointed not to get the win, after putting ourselves in the position to win the game. However, when you play a team with the quality of First Flight, you can never take anything for granted. I am incredibly proud of our boy’s for the heart and passion we played with. They did a fine job of executing most of our tactics that we asked of them. We can certainly clean some things up and look to finish the job in the rematch.”

Stats:

Andrew Hayman: 1 goal

Trent Hayman: 2 goals

Oscar Rivera: 1 assist

Carter Calvio: 1 assist

MHSFFHS
Possession %32.0%68.0%
Attacking Transitions6281
Goals33
Shots718
Crosses614
Corners59
Free Kicks1011
Passes167371
Successful Passes78276
Pass Success Rate47%74%

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s