Mealing Leads Royals To 10th Straight Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 12, 2014, 21:41
Darion Mealing's high-level of play continues to make those around him better.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — In the midst of a nine-game winning streak, Prince George's soccer team had this match circled on their calendar to avenge the first meeting against the Colonials. Colonial Heights' 1-0 victory over the Royals on March. 27 marked the Royals' lone loss of the season and its most disappointing.
The Royals conceded early and pressed forward for the rest of the game, but were too direct in their passes as the Colonials snuffed out each offensive attack. It was the wake-up call Prince George needed as they have since defeated teams by a 39-to-7 margin over their win-streak, developing an offensive fluidity which is hard to contain. However, for the first 40 minutes of action at Colonial Heights High School Athletic Stadium, it seemed history would once again repeat itself between the two teams.
Once the opening whistle blew, it was the Colonials attacking the Royals' zone with a relentless surge. There were numerous chances in the first eight minutes with the Colonials earning three corners while making paralyzing runs into the box. The confidence Prince George brought into the game began to chip away with each attacking run of the Colonials.
Each chance only fueled Colonial Heights more with each gasp of the home crowd in attendance and in the 17' minute, the Colonials had their goal. After another impressive individual flank run by Linwood Fraher, it was Jake Tyler depositing a rebound chance into the back of the net, sending shockwaves through the Royals' sideline.
But the Royals would rebound in the second half as senior leader Darion Mealing refused to let his team's win-streak fall apart, scoring two goals in a nine-minute span, stunning the Colonials and inciting delirum among his teammates. A late-game surge by Colonial Heights with two good scoring chances would be snuffed out by the Royals in an eventual 2-1 victory for their 10th consecutive win.
While his team found a way to win another tight game, Prince George (11-1) head coach Tom Harrison was impressed with Colonial Heights' (7-5) level of play and the way his team rebounded after another flat-start.
"I thought the first half, Colonial Heights really dominated and they had two or three other chances in the second," Harrison said of the game's flow. "Logan made a couple of good saves. They just broke us down defensively ... We just got away from our game in the beginning."
But that would change in the second half of play with the improved organization of the Royals' backline.
And perhaps no one was more impressive than Chris Harrell. The senior co-captain showed a deft ability to know when to push up in attack from the right-back position and when to sit down to defend. In fact, it was Harrell who helped contain Fraher and Tyler in the second half, limiting the Colonials to mostly long distance attempts in the final 40 minutes.
But Harrell's biggest impact was in the offensive side of the game as he played off Bryant Marks with great communication. The duo would help set up dangerous chances in the final third for Mealing, Kam Smith and even Renee Santos which started to swing momentum.
"The one thing we seemed to do pretty good with any of our back four, especially Chris was carrying the ball into space," Harrison said. "Colonial Heights had a lead and were dropping back. We told Chris we were going to need him to drop some balls in for us and he did a really nice job."
Yet, it wasn't Harrell with the most impressive play from the back four on the night.
With Logan Chadek charging through the box to challenge a scoring attempt from Tyler, the net became wide open after the initial save as the ball bounced to Cody Beeler. Chadek ran back toward net and slipped as Beeler fired for what would have been a sure goal if not for Cleo Lee's quick-thinking to clear the ball off the line.
Renee Santos was active in the final third for the Royals all game long.
While not marked down on the scoresheet, Lee's kick-save in the 51' minute halted a mini surge to begin the half by the Colonials and shifted momentum to the Royals for the rest of the game.
"Colonial Heights had a number of opportunities in the second half and that one, in particular, was a good one," Harrison explained. "It was just a heads-up play to keep playing."
But once again, it was Mealing who became the story of the game.
With his team searching for an equalizer in the second half, it was Mealing who began to shift momentum with some individual moments of brillance. His speed down the left-flank was something the Colonials had no answer for as he set-up teammates with ease for attempts at net with Marks, Smith and Winn Watson each firing high over the bar.
However, it would be Mealing with the breakthrough in the 64' minute as he got in behind the Colonials' defense for an easy flick into net. But his next goal nine minutes later was a world-class effort.
Taking on the Colonials defenders down the left-flank, Mealing got into the box and was immediately challenged by Jonas Biermann, yet fought off the tall centerback and continued his way to net for the go-ahead goal. It was just another in a long line of impressive performances by the senior.
"He's a special player," Harrison said bluntly. "We talk about not having to depend on Darion to do everything for us ... but when does things like that, it's hard to convince the guys to do something otherwise."
With a player like Mealing coming through in the clutch and the rest of the team gaining confidence around him, the Royals have won 10 consecutive games with their eyes on a bigger prize in a possible conference title.