HOCKESSIN – The Charter of Wilmington defense was building a brick wall. It was up to the Salesianum soccer team to break through it.
The Sals finally did it on Gavin Ford’s goal in the 37th minute, then added an own goal in the second half for a 2-0 victory Thursday in a matchup of the state’s top two Division I teams at Hockessin Soccer Club.
“It was a difference maker,” Sallies coach Scott Mosier said of Ford’s score. “Because if it’s 0-0 and it keeps on and keeps on and they keep sitting in and defending properly, like they should, as time wears on you get a little more nervous about scoring that goal.”
The top-ranked Sals, coming off a taxing weekend trip to Colorado, improved to 4-1. The No. 2 Force (4-1) had won their first four games by a combined 21-0, allowing just 12 total shots in the process. They faced 13 from the Sals.
“It’s tough to have this be our first real tough game, to kind of be thrown out there,” Charter coach Jon Gillespie said. “But the guys handled it fine. Next time we meet them down the road, we’ll be ready.”
Sallies struggled to generate much offense until Brendan Hanrahan made a nice run on the right side to set up Casey Kurlej’s drive over the crossbar in the 22nd minute. The Sals finally found the net on a counter late in the first half.
Salesianum transitioned quickly after a Charter attack, with midfielder Jason Blackwell sending a perfectly placed ball through to Ford. The junior forward made a sharp move and sent a 15-yard laser between two defenders just inside the near post for a 1-0 lead.
“I just got a great ball from Jason, took on the first defender, saw an opening and just fired it through,” Ford said.
The Sals created more opportunities in the second half. Blackwell missed wide on a good chance in the 48th minute, and three minutes later Ford dished to James Strine for a strong shot that glanced off a Force defender and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s actually very similar to basketball,” Mosier said. “They can play zone all they want, but once you get up a couple of goals, sooner or later they have to come out of their zone. They stayed in their zone, they didn’t come out, but it’s a testament to our guys getting a couple of goals with them packed in there.”
Charter goalkeeper Ben McQuillin kept his team close, making a brilliant leaping save on Blackwell’s straight-on blast in the 63rd minute and sprawling to deflect a low shot by Kurlej three minutes later.
The Force’s best scoring chances came late, as Christian Dexter sent a 20-yard drive well over the crossbar in the 74th minute and Kevin Eriksen missed high on a hurried shot off a brief breakaway in the 76th minute.
“I think we can take a lot of positives out of it,” Gillespie said. “We defended well. I think offensively we need to work on a few things, but Sallies is a great team. They played real well today, and hats off to them.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.