After a scoreless, defensive scuffle consumed the first half of the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team’s home matchup versus Emporia, MHS senior forward Grant Snowden came alive in the second half.
Snowden scored a pair of goals after halftime to lift the Indians to a 2-0 win over the Spartans Thursday night at Bishop Stadium.
The victory marks only the second time this season that Manhattan’s defense has held an opponent scoreless.
The Indians allowed only a handful of shots Thursday, and just two that were on goal — one saved by the Indians’ first-half goalkeeper, Simon Pratt, and the other by the Indians’ second-half goalie, Lance Scudder.
“They did great,” MHS head coach Mike Sanchez said. “For them to both come out with a shutout is awesome.”
The Indians (6-2-1) struggled getting the ball past the Spartans’ defense during the first half, spending most of their time passing back and forth on their half of the field, waiting for an opening.
“They were sitting back a little bit and allowing us to pass,” Sanchez said. “They weren’t letting us get forward, so we had to make some changes to kind of force them to play a little more direct and force them to recognize the speed that we have up top and drop back a little bit and give us some more space. They did a good job of just backing up their line of confrontation and frustrating us.”
Manhattan and Emporia (6-3-1) both went into halftime with almost nothing to show offensively for the first 40 minutes of the game, but the Indians adjusted and came out in the second half with a new mindset.
“In the first half, they did a great job trying to get us to play their game,” Snowden said. “Then in the second half, after we had 10 minutes to chill out and figure out a game plan, we came out a little more active and got some balls behind their defense, got some good breaks and really capitalized off our set pieces.”
Emporia’s goalkeeper saved two early shots on goal by Manhattan, but the fact the Indians infiltrated and attacked showed that their halftime adjustments were making a difference.
Then, with 24:45 to play in the game, Manhattan was given a corner kick. Sophomore midfielder Mason McElwain perfectly served the ball into the box, finding Snowden, who connected on a header to give the Indians the first lead of the game.
“It was a great ball served by Mason,” Snowden said. “He really just served right on the back of the six-yard box and I found some open space. I noticed I had a couple of guys coming at me, so I really focused on heading the ball downward and I got a good bounce to the back post, and it ended up going in.”
Nearly 20 minutes of game time flew by with Emporia only able to mount one serious attack, which Scudder staved off.
The Indians scored their second goal with 6:20 to play in the game off an indirect free kick, when Emporia’s keeper picked up a backpass from a teammate after failing to clear it with his foot just outside of the goal box; that is not allowed.
The ball was placed at the spot of the infraction. After talking with fellow senior Ibrahim Ciftci, Snowden decided Ciftci would touch the ball first.
That allowed Snowden to take a shot, which the senior forward knocked in for his second goal of the day — even though Emporia’s entire team was standing in front of the goal trying to stop him.
“I’ve never seen one that close,” Snowden said with a laugh, referring to the indirect free kick. “I looked up and all 11 of them were standing in front of me. Ibrahim said, ‘Let me know when you’re running up and I’ll touch the ball.’ He touched and I looked up to see where (Emporia) was at, and they had jumped to the right, so that bottom left corner was open. From that point, it was just a pass to the back of the net.”
Emporia made a few more desperate attempts to score in the final minutes, but failed to get anything going.
The win is the second straight for Manhattan, and third in its last four outings.
“I really think we’re starting to find our game,” Snowden said. “Replacing 19 seniors is tough and I think everyone is starting to find their groove a little bit. We know we’re not the biggest or the strongest team out there, so we really have to take advantage of having possession and moving the ball and getting in behind defenses and forcing them to play our game.”
The Indians will try to make it three-straight wins for the second time this season when they hit the road to take on Hayden (5-4) on Tuesday.