Knowing his squad was facing one of the county’s more dynamic players, Southern boys soccer coach Brett Blacker instructed his defenders to keep a close eye on North County senior midfielder Herson Morales.
Unfortunately for Blacker and his Bulldogs, the execution was not as sound as the strategy, leading to a 2-0 victory for the host Knights behind a pair of goals by Morales to push North County’s record to 8-3-1.
“He is a really good player,” Blacker said. “One of the top guys in the county. I told my defenders to sit on him, but we couldn’t shut him down. We have left him with too much space.”
Morales, who has produced 10 goals and five assists this fall, found the back of the net with 13:11 left in the first half as he was able to clean up a loose ball in front of the net. A collision between a Southern defender and one of Morales’s teammates obstructed the view and movement of Bulldogs goalkeeper Ronald Clark, allowing Morales to slip a shot off the defender’s body and into the goal.
“Our strikers were putting a lot of pressure (on the goal) and all of that hard work allowed us to score a goal in each half,” Morales said. “This was one of our better games.”
Morales struck again with just under 16 minutes left in the match on a well-placed pass from Oscar Perez. Perez fed Morales on a break to the goal; Morales then tapped a shot past a charging Clark (six saves) for the 2-0 advantage.
“The timing was perfect,” said Morales, who was forced to leave the game following the goal after a collision with Clark left him hobbled with a bruised thigh. “Hopefully, we’ll do everything we can to continue that streak (of three straight wins).”
While Morales was creating havoc on his side of the field, North County’s defense, paced by Thomas Matte, bottled up Southern’s offense, allowing just a pair of legitimate scoring chances in the 90 minutes of action that was largely played in a heavy mist.
“We’re trying to work in a new group of boys in the back,” Knights coach Shawn Behegan said. “The communication piece in the back is allowing us to get the ball to the front.”
While the Knights are finding their groove, this was Southern’s six straight loss after opening the season with six straight victories.
“We’ve got a few guys banged up right now,” Blacker said. “We were playing the ball to the middle, to their strength. I told them to get the ball outside. We had a couple of crosses, but nobody was there. We’re just trying to get healthy for the playoffs.”
Southern (6-6) 0 0 – 0
North County (8-3-1) 1 1 - 2