Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket met Saturday afternoon at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs in the first of two Cape and Islands League boys soccer showdowns at the top of the standings.
Both teams came into the contest with gaudy, unbeaten records. The Vineyarders were 6-0 with 25 goals scored and one conceded, while the 5-0 Whalers had scored 35 goals and allowed one. On this day, Nantucket weathered a 25-minute Vineyard onslaught in the first half and scored two quick goals, one from a free kick and another on a penalty kick, to grab a 2-0 win.
The Vineyarders practically set up camp in the Nantucket penalty area following the opening kickoff. Time and again, the men in purple threatened but could not finish. Lucas Reis consistently tested the Nantucket backline with accurate crosses into the box, while Emanuel Silva, Sam Balbino, and Luidi De Oliveira did their best to make inroads toward the Whaler goal. Nantucket keeper Vainius Valentukevicius made two outstanding saves, first, leaping to smack Nico DePaula’s free kick over the crossbar at the left post and then snagging a Reis cross with Silva at the doorstep.
After more than 20 minutes, the Whalers had managed a few counterattacks and little possession. Then the Vineyarders lost Daniel Bonneau and his ace marking skills to an injury. Nantucket took advantage off the restart. Mario Reyes gathered a through ball up the middle and sped toward the Vineyard net. Nico DePaula took what could be called a good foul to stop the breakaway and drew a yellow card, setting up a free kick at the edge of the Vineyard penalty area. Christopher Amaya dipped the free kick over the Vineyard wall of defenders, and freshman keeper Hiaggo Goncalves punched the ball high into the air. Unfortunately for the Vineyarders, the ball dropped back down over the goal line to send the Whalers into the lead, well against the run of play, with 14:30 left in the first half. Goncalves was shaken up on the play and briefly left the pitch, to be replaced by Gabe Brito.
Six minutes later, as the Vineyarders tried to shake off the stunning turn of events, the Whalers pressed forward again and were awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box on Reyes, who stepped up to the penalty spot and slotted the ball to the right of keeper Brito. With 8:28 left on the clock, the Whalers led 2-0.
In the second half, the Vineyarders still had the edge in possession, but the Nantucket defenders were more aggressive in containing the MV attack. As the half wore on, Vineyard legs appeared to grow weary, and the Whalers found some space at the back. Nantucket had three dangerous shots on net. Goncalves made stellar saves on all three, parrying two away from the right post and punching the other over the crossbar.
The Vineyarders got a second wind of sorts in the final minutes, and played well to the finish. Tasting defeat for the first time this season, the Vineyarders will get another shot at the Whalers next Saturday in Nantucket.
“We played a very good team,” Vineyard Coach Esteban Aranzabe said. “I believe we are the better team, but we didn’t put the ball in the net.”
Coach Aranzabe thought the result also taught his team a valuable lesson: “I wanted the kids to lose one game, not this one, but one, because they were a little bit cocky, believing too much in themselves. The loss makes them stronger, and they have to fight harder.”
The Vineyarders rebounded with an emphatic 9-0 home win over a clearly overmatched Cape Cod Academy squad on Monday afternoon. Nico DePaula and Jacob Maccaferri netted two goals apiece. Emanuel Silva, Morgan Estrella, Sam Cranston, Eli Saunier, and Aiden Nunes also scored for MV.
The Vineyarders host St. John Paul II in another Cape and Islands League match on Wednesday at 4:15 pm.