Nathan Curtis took a deep breath and raised both arms in the air after scoring his second goal against visiting Long Reach on Thursday. He and everyone else knew his strike in the 75th minute sealed a victory for the Gladiators that was years in the making.
Glenelg’s last win came on Oct. 5, 2017, a 2-1 home win against Howard, but it went 0-24-1 in its last 25 games before snapping the losing skid with a 2-0 victory against the Lightning.
In fact, the last time the Gladiators scored two goals in a game came Oct. 27, 2017 in a 6-3 playoff loss to Marriotts Ridge. They scored two goals all of last season, which they finished with a 0-13 record.
“It’s been a frustrating two and a half years for us now,” Glenelg coach Joe Osborne said. “We keep trying to encourage them to buy in and buy in, and we’d say not to focus on the results, but at the end of the day you see it, you’re in the hallways and the kids say, ‘Oh, how’d you do yesterday?’ and it wears on them. So being able to get one was big for our confidence going forward.”
Curtis’ first goal came in the 54th minute. Junior Ethan Barajas’ corner kick sailed directly to Curtis, who leaped and headed it down and toward the far post. The ball bounced and found the back of the net, and no less than seven teammates rushed toward Curtis to celebrate in the box.
“Well, obviously we haven’t score as many goals as we would have liked,” Curtis said. “So when we get a goal, we’re pumped, and that allowed us to feed off that energy and gave us a second goal.”
His second came as a result of a change the Gladiators (1-3-1 Howard County, 1-6-1 overall) made at halftime to prevent the six offside calls they had against them in the first half. A little patience allowed junior Ian Higgins to get behind the Long Reach back line that was pressed forward about 40 yards from goal. Higgins and Curtis had a two-on-one with goalkeeper Nate Rogers, but Curtis was the one who squeaked his shot past Rogers for the important insurance strike.
“It’s a little bit of a relief off our shoulders,” Osborne said. “We were saying we needed to get to two (goals). We felt good with where we were at today. We’ve had a lot of things just bounce against us, so knowing that it was only one goal for a while there were still a lot of nerves for sure.”
Osborne said there were two key goals before the contest: start with energy and score first. The Gladiators have shown bursts of it during games this fall but haven’t been able to sustain it long enough to break through. On Thursday, however, Osborne said they brought the energy early and kept it going.
“I think today they did a much better job of being able to sustain the energy and concentration for longer periods of time, and finding the open guy instead of just forcing it, especially in that second half,” he said. “We were able to be a little bit calmer on the ball. Take our time a little bit more to try to find an open guy.”
Long Reach (1-4, 1-5) has had similar struggles this season. After being shut out in its first three games and being outscored 11-0, it put together a stunning performance on Sept. 17 and beat Mt. Hebron, 2-1. Now, the Lightning have lost two straight while being outscored by five.
“We’re still finding our place in terms of our groove. We’ve got a playing style; it’s just a matter of jelling and players being disciplined,” Long Reach coach Sylvanus Alves said. “The first half, it was pretty good. It was what we practice coming into the game, but it’s just a matter of movements and attacking forward, and again, that discipline.”
Glenelg travels to Centennial on Thursday, while Long Reach hosts Atholton.
Glenelg 2, Long Reach 0
Goals: G — Nathan Curtis 2.
Assists: G — Ethan Barajas, Ian Higgins.
Saves: G — Noah Tajalli 4; LR — Nathan Carino 2, Nate Rogers 6.