The Vineyarder boys varsity soccer team played a superb soccer match at home on Saturday night, defeating Barnstable High School 1-0 on a second-half penalty kick by Adam Knight.
This one bore no resemblance to last Saturday’s fractious outing with Brockton High School, in which the Purple earned six yellow cards and a two-game suspension of important offensive cog Luidi DeOliveira.
Without one of the Purple’s most important threats, Barnstable was able to pick and choose double coverages, with Moushe Oliveira getting the lion’s share of attention in the first half.
Barnstable has more size and height upfront than Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), and seemingly their gamelong strategy was to flood the box in front of the net and loft 30- to 40-yard passes into the pack, hoping for a header. MVRHS keeper Hiaggo Goncalves made about eight saves off the tactic, with no intercessions from Red Raider noggins. One second-half lob did find a head, but wide left of the goal.
With the Vineyarder backline defense, quarterbacked by Finn Monahan, largely impenetrable, the strategy seemed sound.
Both teams played warily in the opening 10 minutes, with Barnstable enjoying a slight advantage. The Vineyard came back to control play in the middle of the period, but by the end of the first half, it seemed that one goal would take this one.
The Purple had some first-half success scurrying down the left sideline with give-and-go passing between Emmanuel DaSilva and Samuel Balbino, and they remembered after the break. As legs grew tired in the second half, MVRHS Coach John Walsh highlighted freshman speed demon Ryan Coster at left wing. This kid leaves a vapor trail. You aren’t going to catch him with tired legs, and he set up two or three crossing passes that came deliciously close midway through the half.
Both teams were getting legit chances, and the thought in the press box was that someone was going to score soon.
With 15:29 left, it happened. Coster took a lead pass at midfield and jetted down the left side past a defender, cutting to the net and drawing defenders to him. He centered a softie to Adam Knight, who was immediately mugged by two defenders five feet directly in front of the net.
The Red Raiders had to foul; keeper Shawn Calle had no chance. Knight got the penalty kick, and the crowd of 150 with a sizable student section went silent. Knight and Calle stared at each other for a short eternity, then Knight moved. Keeper dove left, Knight wrong-footed right, and there’s your ball game.
But there’s a danger in exhaling too soon, and the Vineyarders did not make that mistake. They kept the pressure on when it made sense, and actually had another left-side rush turn into a shot that skittered by the open Barnstable net.
Hiaggo Goncalves made a game-saving decision when he raced out to challenge Red Raider star Rashawn Plummer one-on-one on a breakaway. Goncalves slid for the ball, and tangled with Plummer, but tipped the ball out of bounds about 20 yards from the right post.
Tell you what: This was a brilliant game between two teams of skilled and smart players. If your memory of high school soccer is a generation or two old, get to a game. You won’t believe what you’ll see,
The Vineyarders are 3-5-2, but, at 3-1-2 in Cape and Islands League Atlantic Division play, right in the league championship hunt. They face Dennis-Yarmouth in a league matchup Tuesday at 3 pm at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.