There’s no doubt the upcoming tilt with Washburn Rural has been on the collective mind of the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team.
In what could possibly be a season-defining week for the Indians, that distraction nearly proved costly as Manhattan struggled to put away Seaman in a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at Bishop Stadium, despite getting a goal in the first four minutes of the match.
“We’ll take the victory — it wasn’t our greatest performance,” Manhattan head coach Frank Alonso said. “I thought we started well, and we started well in the second half and we made some adjustments at halftime to try and pressure the ball a little bit more.
“It’s high school — sometimes that works and it did in our favor and we became the aggressors. So it was a better second-half performance after a very lethargic first half.”
The Indians’ Ibrahim Altamimi scored an early goal to seemingly set the tone for the night, but the team would not score again until midway through the second half.
“We thought we would blow them out from the beginning, we just got kind of complacent,” midfielder Kodi Minocha said. “We can’t really afford to do that.”
In the 29th minute of the first half, the Vikings tied the match on a header goal by Daniel Kramer off a corner kick by Carter Metzger.
In the second half, Manhattan played better, and more aggressively, finally breaking through for a goal in the 62nd minute when Eric Gray fired a shot at Seaman’s goalkeeper, which bounced off his chest and out of his reach. Sophomore Austin French got the rebound and found the back of the net with what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
French and fellow sophomore Kirkland Lambert continue to get the bulk of the playing time in place of injured forward Peter Maier.
“The good news is it sounds like he may be up and running by the Hayden game, which is huge,” Alonso said. “He’s a captain, he’s a cog on the forward line, and I think our other forward Eric (Gray) is missing him.
“The younger boys are doing a good job, and let’s be fair, they’re getting the goals. Austin (French) got one tonight and the other night, Kirkland (Lambert) got one the other day, so the younger boys are doing a good job. But you’re missing a senior, an all-state type of leader up front to work with the other one, so we’re not at full strength.”
French said the team was distracted by the upcoming match with Rural on Thursday.
“With it being 1-1 at halftime, we knew it was going to be a battle,” French said. “I feel like we kind of overlooked this game knowing Washburn is coming up. Every year this Seaman game is right before the Washburn game and it’s always a tight game.”
Manhattan out-shot the Vikings 19-5.
After playing sparingly the last two weeks, Manhattan has three matches this week. After hosting Rural on Thursday, the Indians travel to Great Bend on Saturday before hosting two matches next week.
“It’s a tough week,” Alonso said. “Seaman is always high in 5A, and you’ve got Washburn who are monsters, and Great Bend who have turned us over, it’s just a tough week. We kind of pick our spots when to go, and in high school you can’t do that.
“It’s a big week and they are teenagers. Maybe they are looking forward, but looking forward gets you beat.”
Washburn Rural, who sports a No. 8 national ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, will be one of the toughest matches for Manhattan all year, and represents two of the best teams in the Centennial League.
“We have to treat it like every other game,” Minocha said. “Everybody knows it’s a big game, obviously, but we have to stay focused. If we play our best, I think we can get the win.”
The Rural match is set to begin at 6:15 p.m. at Bishop Stadium on Thursday.
French said the team is prepared for the challenge.
“I feel like we’re ready for it,” French said. “We’ve been training hard all summer — we’re going to get better every day and our practices have been good lately.”