Turns out Yogi was right: It ain’t over till it’s over.
You would think, for example, that this wonderful 2019 edition of MV United’s Under-19 Division 1 boys soccer team would be sitting pretty on Saturday night after pitching three shutouts against top-end statewide competition at the prestigious Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) in Lancaster.
But late Saturday afternoon, after a 3-0 win over Charlton and a 1-0 blanking of Malden, following a 0-0 tie against North Andover on Friday, the Grape had to sit on their hands for a half-hour, waiting for the outcome of the North Andover–Malden match to see if they would move to the championship round on Sunday.
They did not advance. Both MV United and North Andover had the same 2-0-1 record with seven points in the prelims, and both teams had zero goals against, but North Andover scored five goals to the Vineyard’s four in the three games, winning the goal-differential tiebreaker to advance.
Life is hard. But seventh-season U-19 Coach Adam Smith was being a bigger person than your reporter. “We played wonderfully this weekend. These kids were outstanding, did all you could ask for. Sometimes it doesn’t work out your way,” he said.
Earlier in the afternoon, while we were all huddled under a shelter away from a fiendish 30-minute thunderstorm, Smith talked about the MTOC competition. “We don’t see teams like these normally. They are the best from all over the state,” he said. Earlier in the week, his team had captured the South Coast Soccer League (SCSL) championship by way of a 3-0 victory over Nantucket to qualify for MTOC.
Indeed, the MTOC bracket scores had lots of shutouts and low-scoring games. Runaways were scarce. MV United scored four goals in the tournament, three by Moushe Oliveira. Smith’s relative equanimity is also based on experience. In 2018, his squad made it to the SCSL championship game against Fall River, tied them 3-3 in regulation, then lost 4-3 on a penalty kick tiebreaker.
He was also right about the quality of play his team turned in. On Saturday afternoon, United unleashed a team attack that dominated a competitive and scrappy Charlton bunch on offense, scoring three goals just like you draw them up on the chalkboard.
Moushe Oliveira has an instinct for the goal, and these kids have played together for so long they know where teammates will be. They talk, they go to the ball, and they take what is open and make it work.
Charlton was denying the middle all day, so United worked the wings and sidelines. Oliviera picked up a pass near the left corner of the net midway through the first half, and popped it in for a 1-0 lead. His second goal was a luxurious example of team play.
Jack Holmes settled a ball just over midfield in the Charlton end. He saw JoJo Bonneau on the right wing. Now, Holmes knows JoJo is a much-decorated sprinter on the Island high school track team, so he lofted a long lead pass down the right sideline.
Bonneau blew past the defender, collected the pass, angling toward the goal and drawing Charlton defense to him. His 20-yard centering pass was on Moushe’s foot and in the net in an instant. The final tally was similar. Matheus Brito curled a 30-yard pass from left to right, where Finn Monahan was monitoring the right post, and Monahan buried it.
Frankly, if you want to know who to blame, try Charlton goalkeeper Jake Courtney, who faced eight Vineyard shots in the first half and a half-dozen in the second half, half of them testers.
Charlton Coach Tom Casey noticed. “This kid has stood on his head all weekend stopping shots. He must have 30 saves at least,” he said.
Oliveira’s scoring touch and keeper Joshua Sampaio’s work in goal were keys this weekend, but the willingness of this group to play as a team was wonderful to watch. And there were about two dozen parents and fans on hand to watch it. In Lancaster. On Fourth of July weekend. Tells you something about this program.