Woodrow Wilson’s promising soccer team might well regard its 3-2 loss to Huntington Tuesday night at the YMCA’s Paul Cline Stadium as the proverbial “one that got away.”
The Flying Eagles came out swinging, using their speed and long passes to take a 2-0 lead after just four minutes of play.
Then everything slowly unraveled.
“Huntington’s a good team. But we’re a good team, too,” coach Rockey Powell said. “We’re just not doing what we need to do right now.”
Woodrow (0-2) had seen a 2-1 lead go for naught Saturday in a 3-2 home loss to Morgantown.
The Flying Eagles seemed to be bouncing back in style against the Highlanders. Senior forward Justin Johnson took a long pass on the fly, stepped around a couple defenders, and lofted a shot from 20 yards out that easily sailed over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Johnson’s goal, just three minutes into the game, was followed almost immediately by junior striker Corey Accord’s second goal of the season.
Again Woodrow used a long through pass into the box. It bounced around for a moment before Accord took control. He saw Highlanders goalkeeper Chad Dye had cheated up a bit and easily fired it past him for the 2-0 lead.
The barrage continued, with Woodrow looking to go long on most plays. The Flying Eagles took three more shots on goal, but Dye rose the occasion.
Afterward, Woodrow’s attack fizzled out.
“Huntington made an adjustment,” Powell said. “They put a guy back there and let him play center field and pick up everything.”
Huntington coach Sammy Boateng moved senior Max Simpson from a central defensive position to sweeper, and he sweep he did.
“If (opponents) play long, Max can get it,” Boateng said. “We made little switches, here and there, and after that they had almost no chances.”
Powell implored his team to work the ball with shorter, ball-control passes, but to no avail.
“We got into one style of ball,” he said. “We capitalized a couple of times on the long ball. Then we kept getting guys through instead of calming down and moving the ball on the ground.
“We didn’t adjust. We were all keyed to go forward. We have some speed, but we can’t use it all the time. We have to be more deceptive about moving our guys around.”
Woodrow managed just two more shots on goal the rest of the way, one saved by Dye and another by a defender.
“We had three freshmen starting, our goalkeeper and outside backs. They all settled down,” Boateng said. “I told Dye to fight through it and he did exactly that. He saved three or four chances that other goalies probably wouldn’t save.”
While the offense cooled off, Woodrow’s defense was very good. It held the Highlanders to just three shots on goal for the game.
They scored on each, however. Riley Imlay saw an opening, moved up and then slotted the ball safely by goalkeeper Josh Moore in the 33rd minute.
Huntington equalized when Austin Preece curled the ball to Constantine Svingos in the 64th minute, and then moved ahead on Simpson’s penalty kick in the 73rd minute after a Woodrow player tripped a Highlander in the box.
“A couple of our guys got tired, and instead of saying, ‘Hey, I need to get out of there,’ they tried to stay in,” Powell said. “They just got beat.”
Powell made liberal use of his bench while Boateng had just one player available to sub in.
“This was a testament to the kids. We work hard in practice on fitness, and they hate it,” Boateng said. “But I’m hoping it keeps paying off. We’ll keep doing it more.”
The 1-0 Highlanders will play at Parkersburg Thursday. Woodrow also has a big game that night at defending state champion Hurricane.
“It’s out of the frying pan ...” Powell said. “Tonight was disheartening. We have to man up and learn from it.”
— E-mail: dstillwell@
Goals: WW Justin Johnson (3rd minute); WW Corey Accord (4); H Riley Imlay (33); H Constantine Svingos (64), Austin Preece assist; H Max Simpson penalty kick (73). Shots on goal: H 3, WW 7. Goalkeeper saves: H Chad Dye 3. Offsides: H 2, WW 0. Records: H 1-0, WW 0-2.