It was another game and another easy day for the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team.
The defense pitched a shutout and the offense struck early and often, as the Indians stayed undefeated with a 3-0 victory over Wichita North in the opening game of the Titan Classic in Wichita.
“The whole team played well — very encouraging,” head coach Frank Alonso said. “They had some really good players, but we were solid. We played well.”
Manhattan advances to play Hutchinson, who beat Liberal 2-1 after a PK shootout, on Wednesday. All told, the Indians will wear out the road down to Wichita, spending about 16 hours on the bus this week.
“It’s not easy,” Alonso said. “If you look at the tradition of this tournament, we’ve only been in the final once, and we’ve had good teams. (The travel) wears on you.”
Against North, Manhattan got a goal on a ball from Eric Gray from about 20 yards out, assisted by Kodi Minocha, in the third minute to take an early lead and put the pressure on the Redskins.
Manhattan would take a 2-0 lead on a second goal by Gray, this time assisted by Jonathan Turnley in the 28th minute.
In the second half, Manhattan got a goal from Peter Maier in the 15th minute, assisted by Gray, to give the Indians a three-goal lead and allow Alonso to use more of his bench.
North advanced to last year’s quarterfinals and has good players, but is still adjusting to a coaching change.
“They have a new coaching staff, and you can tell once they get a feel for their formation and an idea of what their identity is, they’ll be tough down the road,” Alonso said. “It was a good performance, we played well.”
Manhattan outshot the Redskins 16-2, which made it an easy day for the Indians’ back line.
“They had one shot from about 35 yards that nearly got us into trouble, but aside from that, they didn’t have too many chances,” Alonso said. “(Alex) Richt was the goalkeeper, and he had two saves and looked comfortable.”
Defender Eli Herrera said the Indians were able to capitalize on the way North was playing.
“From the get-go, our defense saw how they played,” Herrera said. “They played a lot of over-the-top balls, they tried to work our line, but we figured it out quick and got the ball up the middle to our forwards.”
Midfielder Michael Cossey said the team’s chemistry is especially good this season.
“It’s the same team we had together before high school even started,” Cossey said. “We all kind of know how to play with each other and the chemistry is good compared to other teams.”
“All the boys are loving it right now — we’re having a good time,” Herrera said. “We’re all good friends, too. It’s not just a team, we have good chemistry and a lot of bonding.”
Despite the two dominant performances thus far, Alonso says the team can do better.
“We feel like we’re not even hitting on all cylinders, offensively, but what we do have are game-winners,” he said. “Three of the guys in particular, Turnley, Maier and Gray, we’ve got match-winners, which always gives us a chance. Plus we have a solid team of players that on their day can win it, so you always have that fighter’s chance of winning the game.”
Alonso is hoping his team can keep its focus despite the long trips and tough opponents.
“We’ve got half a practice tomorrow, then we’re back on the bus to play Wednesday,” he said. “It’s a long week and we play good teams, so we’ve got to get ready for them.”