The Panthers put in their best technical performance of the season as recent efforts on the training field translated to more accurate passing, quicker ball movement, better team shape, and better movement off the ball. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Lawrence, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Vogel, Gomez.
The Panthers put in an exhibition in the first half that left Faith Lutheran at a loss as to how to stop the onslaught. Faith had had some impressive recent results and their high number of shutouts indicated a strong defense. The Panthers dominated possession from the start. They moved the ball quickly, using the full width of the field. Strikers were checking in to receive the ball and the attacking midfielders were running intelligently into the spaces created by this movement. An excellent pass behind the right full back from Zack Ruffer put Henry Robledo-Matadamas clean in on goal but his desire to maneuver the ball onto his right foot when a left foot shot would have been the best choice resulted in him squandering this good position. Five minutes later a similar move resulted in a cross-shot that neither troubled the goalkeeper nor found a team mate. The first serious effort came shortly after when an excellent passing interchange put Cole Lawrence in behind down the left and his excellent cross was met by Tanner Stevenson who was surging into the box and his athletic right foot volley on the run went inches wide of the top left corner with the keeper rooted to the spot. The was followed shortly after by an excellent strike from Teagan Jarvis from just outside the penalty area that struck the right post with the keeper thinking it was going well wide. The Panthers frustration was compounded when another intelligent ball from the midfield, this time from Tim Stephens, found Antonio Gomez who surged past full back only to screw his shot high and wide. He may have done better if not for having his shirt pulled by the defender. Everyone saw this (even my wife who was over 100 yards away), but apparently the linesman who was 15 yards away with an unobstructed view and the referee who was no more than 30 yards away didn’t see it or chose to ignore it. The Panthers then had a couple of wobbly moments that nearly gifted the rather toothless Faith attack a simple goal. Firstly, Cole Lloyd sensibly intercepted a through ball and passed the ball back to Hudson Huckfeldt. The ball hit one of the many potholes on the field and skipped over Huckfeldt’s attempted kick. Fortunately, he reacted quickly and got a fingertip on the ball to make sure it went wide of the goal. The second event happened when Ryan Nogues opted to force a forward ball past an advancing striker when a square ball to the open Lloyd would have been the simple and safe option. The ball rebounded off the striker’s legs and he was clean in behind only to see his effort past the advancing Huckfeldt strike the right post.
A little frustration was beginning to show but the Panthers refused to change their style of play and this finally paid off after 20 minutes. After some quick ball movement from defense to midfield, Stevenson received a square pass from Ruffer and played a first time through ball intelligently to Gomez who was running into a space behind the defense. Gomez carried the ball into the area and comfortably slipped it past the advancing keeper to put the Panthers in the lead. The Panthers kept the pressure on Faith and after 30 minutes the ever improving Robledo-Matadamas doubled the Panthers’ lead. An excellent combination between Jarvis, Gomez, and Mikey Vogel saw Vogel cut inside from the right and play an excellent through ball to Robledo-Matadamas. This time he was clean in behind the Faith defense and he powered a left foot shot past the helpless keeper from 14 yards. The first half saw the Panthers continue to dominate but unable to extend the lead further while remaining untroubled at the back. Half time 2-0.
In the second half, the Panthers could not quite reach the heights of their first half performance as a little too much dribbling crept into their play. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Tonks, Nogues, Lloyd, Lawrence, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Vogel, Gomez.
The Panthers again dominated possession and territorial advantage but were a little too selfish in key areas. The result was that they found it difficult to create many clear cut chances. After 10 minutes the game should have been secured when a clever flick pass from Vogel put Gomez clean in on goal. The advancing keeper went to ground too early and a simple chip over him seemed inevitable. However, the chasing defender clearly pushed Gomez from behind and Gomez tumbled over the ball and the keeper. Unfortunately, for the second time in the game the referee waved away what was a stonewall penalty. Vogel again caused trouble and beat two defenders to get to the end line to the right of goal and cut inside. Somehow Vogel and the advancing Gomez conspired to make a hash of converting a simple chance. The ball seemed to repeatedly ricochet around the six yard box with no one able to put it away. In the latter minutes, some fine work down the left saw an excellent cross to the back post by Bryan Montoya go over the last defender and find Dylan Rath whose excellent right foot volley went narrowly wide. Final score 2-0.
This win was more impressive than the scoreline suggests. The two missed penalty calls and a number of missed chances could have resulted in a more emphatic result. However, the level of play in the first half was the highest achieved by the team so far this season. It is always pleasing to the coaches when the players successfully put into practice what they have worked on in training.