Under the unforgiving Arizona sun, we kicked off our second game in three days against Benedictine. Coming off a demoralizing 3-0 loss against Embry Riddle, we vowed to put in a stronger performance. We didn’t want to leave Arizona without any points. From the start, it was clear that this match would turn out differently. Our passing was much crisper and our intensity was high. Both teams were unable to create any real goal scoring opportunities in the first ten minutes. As our coach predicted, their strategy centered around getting the ball to their left winger and letting him run at our backline. At about the 15 minute mark, their dangerous left winger sped past two of our players with the ball before his heavy touch led to a collision with our center back.
The referee awarded a penalty kick despite the ball being well out of play. The fouled player stepped up to take the kick only to see his shot impressively saved by our keeper Maxwell Barranca. Following this key event in the match, we began advancing the ball higher up the field. We started stringing together several passing sequences. In one promising play, Aidan Gross, our right back, received a pass from Chase Bucharest high up the field. He then played me the ball in a pocket of space. I quickly turned and slid a ball into the path of our winger Jesus Cabrera only to see the linesmen raise his flag for offside. As the half wore on, both teams continued to cancel each other out and few chances were created. We went into halftime goalless.
Our coach emphasized to us just how proud he was of our performance in the first half. In addition, he told us that he was confident that we would get the goal needed to win this game. We started the second half even stronger than the first. At the 55 minute mark, we scored the crucial goal. Masahiro Otsuka, our left winger, dribbled the ball towards the byline before whipping a cross into the near post area. His cross was intercepted by one of their center backs. Yauri De Groot, our forward, took advantage of his positioning by nudging him off the ball and then carrying the ball towards goal. As the keeper rushed out to meet him, De Groot deftly maneuvered the ball around him before slotting into the empty net. Inevitably, after scoring the all-important first goal, we started sitting back with the intention of preserving our lead. This only invited more pressure and led to an attacking onslaught from Benedictine. Crosses were continuously pumped into our box from their wingers. Our center backs were forced to make several last-ditch defensive clearances. Linus Ruegger, our defensive midfielder, executed a couple of crunching tackles that stifled their counter attacks.
During the last ten minutes of the match, Benedictine came close with a couple of opportunities for grabbing an equalizer. One of their tallest players outjumped both of our center backs but his powerful header was met by a super reflex save by Barranca. In another tense moment, another one of their forwards saw his header loop over our keeper only for our center back Hunter Stewart to clear the ball off the line at the last second. At the final whistle, we excitedly trudged off the field. Each of us embraced the other. Our resiliency as a group had paid off in a big way. We left Arizona filled with pride over our latest performance and with Gangnam Style ringing in our ears.