The Manchester Valley boys soccer team returned a solid nucleus of players from last season, and the Mavericks expected to do well.
So far, they’ve probably exceeded expectations.
Manchester Valley kept its perfect record intact with a 1-0 victory over Howard on Thursday night to improve to 4-0.
“We are very excited about the start,” said Manchester Valley coach Andrew Harrell, whose team has also beaten Middletown, Walkersville, and North Harford. “We are playing with a lot of unity and very well together. There’s not a lot of individual (play) out there.”
But junior striker Connor Allen has stood out as much as any Manchester Valley player. He has five goals and four assists.
The Times first-team all-county selection from last fall scored the lone goal in the win over the Lions.
“He is a special player, and he really means a lot to this team,” Harrell said. “What sets him apart is that he is not selfish. He spreads the ball around knowing he will get it back. He is composed enough and good enough to put it in the back of the goal.”
Allen scored midway through the first half against Howard and the Mavericks’ defense made the goal stand up to spoil the season opener for the Lions.
Howard pushed for the equalizer in the final 10 minutes, recording four shots. But two attempts went over the goal, another was wide, and Manchester Valley senior keeper Griffin Potter stopped Monssef Marrakchi’s shot in the final minute.
“We put the pressure on them,” said Howard coach Nils Schroder, whose team outshot the Mavericks 16-10. “I am proud of our effort. I thought the performance was great. It was our first game.”
Howard’s best chance to score came midway through the second half. Andrei Shiller’s corner kick to right in front of the goal was knocked into the crossbar by Marrakchi. A little while later, Mark Bruner chipped Robbie Ryerson’s crossing pass wide of the goal.
Howard also tested Potter (13 saves) and the defense of Declan Marvel, Massimo Artista, Christian Keller, and Carter Cigrang early in the first half.
Ninety seconds into play, Potter saved Marrakchi’s in-close shot. Then about four minutes later, the netminder stopped Marrakchi’s header off of Michael Field’s corner kick.
Manchester Valley had a slow start.
It wasn’t until nearly 12 minutes had elapsed until the Mavericks got close to the Howard goal, but Allen’s header was wide of the mark.
The Mavericks scored on their second shot of the game.
Allen booted a shot from about 25 yards out with 20:36 remaining right under the crossbar and out of the reach of senior goalie Kenny Accardi, who was out of position.
“Tonight wasn’t pretty,” Harrell said. “Was it our best game? No. But it was probably our best opponent. So I am happy about the result.”
Goals: MV-Connor Allen.
Saves: MV-13 (Griffin Potter); H-5 (Kenny Accardi).
Halftime: MV, 1-0.