For Marriotts Ridge boys soccer, the second half on Tuesday night against Reservoir was not going the way it intended. But in a tight game between two quality opponents, it doesn’t always have to. Even just a single play can decide the match’s outcome.
The Mustangs’ eventual 2-1 road triumph had two such sequences that happened to occur less than a minute apart. First was a nifty equalizer off a set piece with about 26 minutes to play in regulation, and then came a well-executed counter attack that resulted in the go-ahead goal. It turned out to be the only offense the Mustangs would need en route to securing their fourth win in five games.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Marriotts Ridge coach Quinn Khouri said. “You’ve got to be high percentage, because you know against good teams, you’re not going to have 10, 15, 20 shots on goal. You’ve got to take advantage of the ones that you do have.”
Second-half scoring opportunities came at a premium for a Marriotts Ridge team that spent much of the final frame defending its own net.
Reservoir (5-5 county, 7-5 overall) constantly attacked the goal out of the break, much like it did in the latter stages of the first half after netting the opening tally. The strike came in the 21st minute on a perfectly-timed finish from Alex Molina off an Aaron Kaplan corner kick, and it seemed to jumpstart a Gators’ attack that endured a slow start.
Eventually the Mustangs (6-4, 6-6-1) advanced possession past midfield and kept it there with the hope of mustering even one quality scoring chance. That opportunity came around the 54th minute.
Off what Khouri called a “brilliant” free kick from junior Mark Lee, senior Gabe Jones found enough space in the box to swoop in for the header that no one could prevent from tying the game.
In the mind of Reservoir first-year coach David Obeng-Darko, it marked the “one mistake” his team made in an otherwise promising late-season performance. And making matters worse was that the miscue had multiple parts. For one, Obeng-Darko thought the Gators were too slow in setting up their defense in preparation for the set piece. That left players out of position, allowing Jones a clean look that he sent past goalkeeper Andre Jobst (seven saves).
The game-deciding strike was far less preventable, Obeng-Darko said, as it occurred with precision passes in quick succession. Starting in their own defensive third, Marriotts Ridge charged down the field as Reservoir attempted to set up after having a good look of its own moments earlier. There was simply too much space for the Mustangs to operate, which resulted in a golden opportunity Thomas Williamson had no intentions of squandering.
“I was calling, ‘Caleb [Yoon], pass the ball, pass the ball,’” Williamson said. “He got his head up, played me, I had space, so I took a touch. And right after the touch I shot, and it went in the bottom corner.”
Marriotts Ridge (6-4, 6-6-1) — 2, Reservoir (5-5, 7-5) — 1
Goals: MR — Gabe Jones, Thomas Williamson; Re — Alex Molina.
Assists: MR — Mark Lee, Caleb Yoon; Re — Aaron Kaplan.
Saves: MR — Mark Antico 6; Re — Andre Jobst 7.
Halftime: 1-0, Re