Knights Fall To Cosby
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 4, 2014, 14:46
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTER — These are new times for the Thomas Dale soccer team. No longer are the Knights the dominating force they have been over the years, instead replaced by a young team which is learning what it takes to get to that level. And it was that learning experience which continued against Cosby Friday night.
The Titans entered the match having lost only one game this season and had a roster filled with experience, including a starting 11 filled with juniors and seniors. It was why the Knights knew it would be up their defense to maintain their shape to keep the game close throughout, starting the game with a conservative style.
Thomas Dale routinely kept 10 men behind the ball at all times while utilizing Aaron Clarke as the lone striker up top and for much of the game it worked. Cosby, while patient while in possession, struggled to break down the Knights' defense. Each passing sequence was broken up with ease in the final third as Thomas Dale cleared every dangerous chance.
It was more of the same to start the second half as the frustration began to mount for the heavily favored Titans. And with the added frustration came more determination, resulting in more attempts at net. The added attempts, coupled with the direct attack from Cosby, caused panic in the back as the Knights blinked.
Cosby's Austin Mann opened the scoring on a right-footed flick into net on a cross from the right-flank which started a 10-minute onslaught of three goals within the span. The 10-minute stretch witnessed the only three goals of the match in an eventual 3-0 Knights' loss.
"That's the game, isn't it," head coach Mark Fowler said after his team's loss. "Cosby did great job, getting in behind us and scoring a couple of lovely goals. You have to say congratulations and well done."
Yet, for all the accolades Fowler credited to the Titans for their game-winning executions, his Knights' team also played well throughout the game.
Maintaining their defensive shape allowed them to stop the Cosby offensive attack at will throughout the first half of play, taking control of possession and immediately trying to push up field themselves. However, that is where Thomas Dale struggled.
While the Knights would regain possession, they could not complete passes from the back through the midfield resulting in Cosby taking control. It's another example of a young team learning what it takes to win consistently at this level after executing one part of the game-plan, but being anxious on the other.
Thomas Dale routinely had open spaces as the Titans pushed forward and played a high-line, but passes were not as crisp as they could have been which led to numerous turnovers.
"That's probably where we are," Fowler said of the way his team is growing. "We couldn't hold on it for too long and got a little bit direct. It led to us having to circumvent the middle a little bit ... we're the doing the best we can, it's different for me as well, but we're having to change our shape a little bit."
But the Knights did have one person who excelled in the counter-attacking shape and it was Andrew Wenzel.
The senior midfielder found himself on the right-flank and showed tremendous ability to attack the Cosby defense. His one-on-one moves down the pitch resulted in drawing the defense in and opening up space for his teammates in the box.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Specifically, Wenzel was able to create enough space for himself on two different occasions, to fire great crosses into the box with one going just inches over the head of Aaron Clarke near the far post for what could have been the game's first goal in the 26' minute.
Additionally, Wenzel also exhibited a high work-rate in pressuring the Titans off the ball, forcing some key turnovers which turned into Knights' scoring chances. It was the type of effort Fowler likes to see.
"Wenzel did very well," Fowler explained. "He beat his man, the fullback, and put in a lovely couple of crosses in the first half which we couldn't get on the end of and against a good side like Cosby, you need a little bit of luck and take those chances when they come along."
And that would be the bright spot for Fowler's team.
For 70 minutes, his team excelled defensively while maintaining organized in the back and marking up every Titans' player in the zone and were able to push up field to create mild scoring opportunities. Arturo Johnson was active all night on the left-side.
Matt Magnano played stiff defense and delivered great crosses up field from the right while Justin Aycock and Austin Hylton played well up top in spurts. It's the continued development of a team which had been dealt some tough lessons already this season.
Even in a loss, Fowler was able to recognize how far his team has come in such a short period.
"Considering we lost to Prince George and Meadowbrook here, we've come a long way already," he said. "I'm pleased. Give us four or five more games and see where we're at then."
If Thomas Dale continues to improve at their current pace and keep focus for an entire 80-minute game then there is no telling what could happen in the conference tournament for a young team with a lot of talent.