DOBSON — For much of the first half of Monday’s 4-0 win, the Surry Central soccer team must have thought there was an invisible cover on the front of the opposing goal.
The Golden Eagles peppered the West Stokes goal with shots and rarely even allowed the visiting Wildcats to clear the ball out of their own end of the field. Twice, the team saw well-placed shots on goal clang off the side posts, and another one ricocheted off the crossbar so hard that you could hear it from the cheap seats.
Despite all of that, the Eagles went the first 14 minutes of the match locked in a scoreless tie with an obviously overmatched opponent. While soccer is a game of skill first and foremost, coach Blake Roth understood that good old-fashioned bad luck can play a role, and he encouraged his team to keep plugging away.
“We stress patience,” he said. “Sometimes even when we’re moving the ball around well, things don’t happen the way we want them to right away, and then we tend to be too direct with our attacks.
“I try to tell them that soccer is a chess match, our 11 pieces against their 11, and we want to move the ball around and find a vulnerable spot.”
Invariably, sooner or later, it works. The Eagles didn’t get frustrated and lose their cool, and with 25:59 left in the match, Julio Sánchez sent a ball to Justo Cristóbal from four yards to the left of the West Stokes keeper, and Cristóbal found the back of the net for the only goal that Surry Central would need on this evening.
The Eagles (13-3-2, 4-1 Western Piedmont Conference) kept on pushing after taking a 1-0 lead, suffering three more near-misses before Sánchez and Cristóbal teamed up a second time, this time with Cristóbal taking the shot from eight yards directly in front of the goal at the 17:33 mark.
This time, luck was finally on the side of the Eagles. Cristóbal’s shot was directed toward the center of the goal, and it looked like the keeper would be able to make the save. However, the ball took a glancing blow off the side of one of several players in a melee in front of the net, and was deflected to the left, where it slowly rolled inside the left post for a 2-0 Central lead.
“That’s absolutely the worst feeling for a goalie,” said Roth. “It looked like he was going to make the play and then that happens, and you’re out of position. That deflection was big for us.”
The teams battled for the rest of the first half with only a few more serious threats, but the Eagles quickly put it away when the second half started.
The Wildcats mounted one of their few threats a minute into the half, when one of their forwards out-ran the entire Surry Central team all the way into the Eagles’ box and took what amounted to a penalty kick against Central keeper Ryan Gordon. Gordon, from about six yards out, got his hands on the ball and sent it flying the other direction.
With 35:32 left to play, the Eagles’ Brayan Gomez made it 3-0 by heading in a pass from Cristóbal, and exactly four minutes later, Cristóbal took a corner kick that Javier Villacaña headed in from in front of the goal to complete the scoring.
“I was very pleased with Justo tonight,” said Roth. “Great game, two goals and two assists.”
The rest of the match saw Roth switching players in and out, but Surry Central never yielded a goal, and kept the pressure on to the end, with the Eagles’ Gerardo Chávez just missing the net with about 10 minutes remaining.
“We didn’t have any letdown with the bench players in,” Roth said. “I’m tickled with the way we played.”
Surry Central will complete its regular season on Wednesday and Thursday night with back-to-back home matches against Carver. Kickoff for the Wednesday match will be at 5:30, and the Thursday match will begin at 6:15.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.