Hopewell Makes Stride In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 2, 2014, 13:37
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — For the first 57 minutes of action at Merner Field, the Blue Devils stared down a talented Prince George squad eye-to-eye. Hopewell's 4-0 loss to Warhill to begin their 2014 campaign seemed to be a distant memory as they withstood each offensive zone attack from the Royals.
Additionally, Hopewell executed great counter-attacks while building through the back with quick outlets to the flanks where they tried to spread the Royals' defense to open up passing lanes. It was the type of execution head coach Brad Dalton was looking for out of his team.
They took what the Prince George defense gave to them, mostly flank runs which allowed a three-man type of game, and executed at a high-level. Even more, the Blue Devils had a tremendous response to a 15' minute goal scored by Prince George's Darion Mealing with a goal by Tyler Jordan just on minute later.
And when the Royals tallied again off a corner throw-in where Hopewell left Kam Smith unmarked in the box, it looked like it was the pin in their balloon. Yet, the Blue Devils rebounded and played Prince George even until senior Juan Martinez tried to play a ball inside the box, planting awkwardly before collapsing on the field.
After Martinez's possible season-ending knee injury, Hopewell surrendered three goals in a seven-minute span, turning a 2-1 deficit into an eventual 5-1 loss. Yet, after the game even Dalton could not be too upset with the effort his team gave.
"We've got to play an entire 80 minutes and not take a five minute break like we did," Dalton said of Hopewell's performance. "We have to learn that unfortunate circumstances happen and the sign of a good team is how you respond. You hate to lose a player like Juan, but at some point someone else has to step up into those shoes. But overall, played well. We moved the ball really well and we did what we wanted to do."
While the scoreboard did not indicate it, Dalton is correct in his assessment.
Hopewell played well for almost the entirety of the game and took advantage of a Royals squad which had been searching for its own game heading into the critical match. In fact, by playing the ball wide, the Blue Devils forced the Royals into chasing them as they controlled the action and pace.
It was the perfect game-plan against a team like Prince George which relies on having possession — specifically controlling the majority of it — to create an offensive attack. And even more promising was seeing the drills run in practice being displayed on the pitch.
The Blue Devils have worked on a three-man game all week long focusing on pushing on the ball up the field with short, precise passes. The trio of Zack Hipps, Scott Layne and Jordan each teamed up for one in the 4' minute of the game while running up the left flank, creating the Blue Devils' first scoring chance and later their lone goal of the game.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"I told them, 'I'm not upset about the score because we played well,'" Dalton said. "I'm upset about is that we mentally took that five-minute break and it killed us ... From Warhill to this game, it was a 100 percent improvement. The score might not show it, but it's still early in the season and we have 14 more matches to go. It's not what we do tonight, it's what we do the last week in May which will define our season."
For their season to be defined in a positive way, Hopewell will need to learn from the mistakes which haunted them during their loss to Prince George.
Far too often, the Blue Devils' back line failed to track back quick enough to stave off the Royals' offensive zone runs. While Hopewell needed to push up the field to find an equalizer, they also needed to know when to take risks and when to sit back which became their undoing.
In fact, if it were not for Nathaniel Satterfield in the midfield and Addiel Gomez at the forward spot tracking back at great angles to cut off opposition runs, more goals could have been scored by Prince George.
Luckily for the Blue Devils, it's just two games into the season and a lot more soccer is left to clean up the miscues going forward.
"We were trying to put the pressure on them to try to make them do something with the ball, but unfortunately the ball got into the free space and their speed up top is definitely something you need to watch out for," Dalton said. "We just have to learn from the mistakes we had tonight and how quickly we respond and turn those mistakes into positives is going to have a lot to do with the rest of the season."
With a full slate of games over the next week, Hopewell needs to make the corrections quickly if they want to get on the right track early in the season.