With 10 days off since its last match, the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team had the potential to come out a little bit rusty on the road against the Shawnee Heights T-Birds.
But that didn’t happen.
Manhattan (4-1) scored two goals in the first 15 minutes of the match to take a 2-0 lead that would hold up over the next 65 minutes of soccer.
Midfielder Matt Liotta said the team has kept its momentum in practice the last week and a half.
“We have great coaches that keep us on task, make sure we’re working hard all practice every practice, so we stayed focused,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t drop games or drop practices, so we came ready to go today.”
Seeing more time because of an injury to starter Peter Maier, Kirkland Lambert scored the first goal on a header, assisted by Brandon Religa’s corner kick, in the ninth minute. Just five minutes later, Michael Cossey added a second goal on an assist from Jonathan Turnley.
“We had a couple players really step up, because Peter Maier hurt his ankle,” assistant coach Michael Lopez said. “So Kirkland Lambert and Austin French, two sophomores, really stepped up and helped us on the attack.”
The Indians outshot the T-Birds 12-2 on the day, with goalkeeper Alex Richt getting another shutout.
Lopez said after the first two goals, both teams made adjustments that kept the scoring chances to a minimum the rest of the way.
“They started to make an adjustment, they switched into a 4-5-1 to put more pressure on the middle field,” he said. “We talked to our center-mids about holding the ball, holding their positions a little bit more.”
Lopez said the long layoff between games showed up more after the first two goals in the beginning of the match.
“We did really well right at the beginning, but when we tried to make adjustments after that, the layoff did start to hurt us a little bit,” he said. “Just in finding the rhythm of the game.”
Liotta said the team worked on finishing in practice while making sure the group was prepared mentally.
“We worked on some finishing around the net, and we strategized a little bit with our formations,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we got our mental mindset fixed up a little bit and we came out hot and ready to go.”
Defender Austin Clark said scoring early goes a long way for the Indians’ collective confidence level.
“Once we get that first goal under our belt, there’s no stopping us,” Clark said. “We typically don’t give up another goal once we score that first one.”
Clark said once the team scores, the Indians typically play more relaxed.
“Getting the lead allows us to drop off a little bit more and play our system more than trying to get that goal,” he said. “But once we get a goal, we end up playing comfortable, which a lot of times leads to even more goals.”
Manhattan takes the rest of the week off before hosting its second home match of the season at Bishop Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 24 against Seaman at 6:15 p.m.