In the past, Manhattan High boys’ soccer coach Frank Alonso might have been more upset with his team after a low-intensity effort in a meaningful league match.
But his team won comfortably on Thursday, and though he wasn’t thrilled with their performance, the end result was another league win in a tight Centennial League race with Washburn Rural and Hayden.
“The intensity wasn’t there, as you could probably hear me, but a win at this stage, nobody hurt, a shutout, three goals and comfortable and the defense played well — it’s good,” Alonso said. “And we got one of our captains and main scorers back. I’m always going to push them, but we were solid.”
Facing Emporia at Bishop Stadium on Thursday, Manhattan (8-1-1) was in control from start to finish, taking a two-goal lead to halftime and not relenting in the second half in a 3-0 shutout win.
With the win, Manhattan’s off to its best 10-game start in more than a decade.
“In all the years I’ve been here, I can’t remember a better start,” Alonso said. “We’ve had some good starts, but never this good.”
Manhattan out shot the Spartans 15-1, and dominated the possession battle most of the night. The Indians took a 2-0 lead to halftime before getting a third goal in the second half and calling off the dogs.
“It was nice to see us get the third goal so we could relax,” Alonso said. We’ve been talking about 2-0 leads all year long. We got the third one and relaxed.”
Manhattan made it 3-0 on a goal by Peter Maier, who returned after two weeks out with an injury, on a pass from Eric Gray in the 51st minute. Maier hurt his ankle in the Shawnee Heights game on Sept. 17, but logged plenty of minutes against the Spartans in an effort to be back up to speed by Tuesday’s match with Hayden.
“It felt good,” Maier said of his return. “I’ve definitely got to trust my foot, trust that it’s 100 percent. Obviously I wasn’t 100 percent, but it’s good to get back before Hayden, which is a big game. It’s always a tough game, especially going there. We play before the JV and sometimes we lose focus.”
The Indians took a 2-0 lead to halftime on a pair of goals from sophomore forward Kirkland Lambert. The first came in the 12th minute, with the second coming in the 24th minute on a rebound after a shot from Michael Cossey in a crowded Emporia goal.
Lambert has been on a hot streak lately, scoring three goals against Wichita South on Tuesday before adding to his total Thursday.
With Maier’s return, Lambert and fellow sophomore teammates Michael Cossey and Austin French will all likely see a decrease in minutes, though Alonso said they have all earned the right to play.
“Or sophomore boys have done a good job,” Alonso said. “I challenged the team in Wichita early on that we can’t have three guys scoring all the goals, and we’ve proved that we can get goals from other players. That’s been a huge plus for us, and now that we get Pete back, those guys will still be heavily involved, but it makes us more potent and I think Eric up front is comfortable with Pete, so it’ll make him better.”
Manhattan travels to Hayden for a 4 p.m. start.
“They beat us 3-2 to take us out of the Centennial last year after our tie with Washburn, kind of the same scenario as now,” he said. “They’re as talented as we are — I think we’re a little deeper, but they’re as talented as we are. So it’ll be a fight. We play at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, which isn’t good and we go there.
“We’ll have to match their intensity.”