The Panthers carried their preseason form into the first conference game and defeated a stubborn Legacy team by 4-0. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Lawrence, Stephens, Hoxhalli, Stevenson, Manthey, Vogel, Montoya.
The Panthers took control of the game from the off with some excellent passing and movement. The Legacy defense was playing an aggressive offside trap that resulted in a number of breakaway opportunities for the Panthers. Bryan Montoya had two one-on-one efforts with the goalkeeper off intelligent through balls but was thwarted by excellent goalkeeping. The goalkeeper saved well from Arber Hoxhalli at close range and also denied efforts from Presten Manthey, Cole Lawrence, and Mikey Vogel as the Panthers were frustrated by the keeper’s excellent performance and their own profligacy in front of goal. The Panthers tried to get behind the Legacy defense, particularly down the right side, and were successful on three occasions only for the crosses to be intercepted by the keeper or a sliding defender. After all of this pressure, the Panthers needed Hudson Huckfeldt to make an important save to keep the scores level. A series of quick passes in the midfield saw a Legacy striker released behind the Panther defense. The striker sent Huckfeldt the wrong way with his effort but Huckfeldt’s quick reactions allowed him to get a hand on the effort and steer it wide. With five minutes remaining in the half, Henry Robledo-Matadamas and Antonio Gomez were introduced for Vogel and Montoya, with Manthey switching to central striker. This was the catalyst for the break through. A good attack down the left side involving Lawrence and Robledo-Matadamas was thwarted but the ball broke to Manthey who played an intelligent chipped pass to the back post where the unmarked Gomez scored by flicking the ball over the advancing keeper’s legs and into the bottom left corner. Half time 1-0.
The Panthers have proven to be a second half team so far this season and this game was no exception as their display of passing and quick movement saw them put Legacy in the rear view mirror. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Lawrence, Stephens, Venezia, Vogel, Robledo-Matadamas, Manthey, Gomez.
The Panthers pulled Vogel into the midfield in a more creative role and kept the attacking trio that ended the first half with a goal. The Panthers jumped all over the Legacy defense from the first whistle and extended their lead within two minutes. Mikey Venezia and Vogel combined to find Manthey on the edge of the area. Manthey unleashed a fierce left foot shot that beat the keeper but struck the crossbar. The Legacy defense failed to clear the rebound and Gomez showed great strength to shoulder a Legacy defender off the ball before shooting accurately into the left corner of the goal. Two goals in just over five minutes of play from Gomez had turned the game around. The Panthers continued to dominate the half but also continued to spurn chances, with Robledo-Matadamas and Manthey both coming close. Just past the half way point in the second half, Gomez sealed his hat-trick and put the game beyond Legacy. Tim Stephens, who was totally dominating the midfield in the second half, surged forward and laid the ball off to Gomez who shifted right and struck a sweet drive into the top right corner from 23 yards. Gomez was withdrawn for Tyler Olenak shortly afterward. Within a minute Olenak was put through by Tanner Stevenson and his effort beat the advancing keeper but was narrowly wide of the left post. Legacy had one final roll of the dice with a 30 yard effort that sailed over the crossbar. With eight minutes left, Manthey was replaced by Dylan Rath, for his first appearance of the season. Rath wasted no time getting on the score sheet. Olenak had been fouled out on the left wing. Stevenson delivered an excellent cross that found Rath making a move to the near post. Rath crashed the ball into the net with a superb right foot volley to seal the final score of 4-0.
The Panthers again demonstrated their strength in depth as players introduced from the bench showed the desire to make an impact. Twelve different players have scored so far this season and the Panthers have not failed to score in any of the nine games. Today’s shutout was the fifth of the season, also indicating that we are developing the defensive solidity required to provide a successful season. We have played well but the coaches firmly believe that we can play better. There should be many excellent performances to come as long as we keep our feet on the ground and continue to work hard.