Canton Rallies in the Second Half to Beat Franklin

Canton girls soccer
For the second time in a week, Canton rallied from a goal down in the second half and sealed a win thanks to a Mekhala Costello goal, this time beating Franklin 2-1. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – Over the weekend, Canton played a tough, physical game against division rival Oliver Ames. It was Canton’s first loss of the season. Just a few days later, on Wednesday night at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, the Bulldogs had another competitive, physical encounter against division-leading Franklin.

This time, the Bulldogs started the game without leading scorer Emily McCabe. The senior forward was nursing an injury and would likely only be able to play a half, so head coach Idris Senyonjo left her out of the starting lineup. Canton struggled without the focal point of its attack, but McCabe emerged in the second half and sparked a massive turnaround.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

With McCabe up front for the final 40 minutes, Canton put the pressure on the Panthers, rallying from a goal down for the second time in a week and pulling out a 2-1 victory.

“She hasn’t trained all week, so I was going to either play her first half or second half,” Senyonjo explained. “Bringing her on in the second half would give them something different to think about. Em gives them a whole different dimension of what they’re going to have to worry about.”

It didn’t take long for McCabe to make her presence felt. She immediately charged at the Franklin back line and pressed center backs Norah Anderson and Lily Deforge (who was playing in the middle in place of injured junior Maddie Horton). McCabe added a different dimension to the attack, drawing attention and freeing up space on the wings, as both Emma Cahill and Caira McKinney looked dangerous after the break.

Twelve minutes into the second half, it was McCabe that would get the equalizer. She clipped a ball up over the defense from just outside the penalty area and then burst through a pair of defenders to get clean through on goal. She was just able to get a toe on the loose ball and poke it past onrushing Franklin keeper Rachel Welch.

“We knew it was going to be an aggressive game and we had to stick to the game plan,” Senyonjo said. “The idea was, if we could put their defense under pressure, we’re going to force them to make mistakes.”

Not only had Canton stemmed the tide of Franklin attacks, which was the story of the opening 40 minutes, but now the Bulldogs were taking control of the action in the midfield through Paige Sullivan and Mekhala Costello.

McCabe nearly created the go-ahead goal in the 56th minute. She slipped a pass into the path of Cahill, who was tripped up on the edge of the box. Canton cried out for a penalty but the official spotted the ball just outside. Costello’s free kick was on target, but right at Welch.

Ten minutes later, Costello would score the winner. Welch came out of the box to clear a ball over the top. Her clearance was in the middle of the field and Costello pulled it down about 40 yards from goal. The junior took a look, saw the keeper racing back to her line, and fired a shot into the unguarded net. It was her second game-winner in the past three games.

“I just feel bad for Rachel,” Franklin coach Tom Geysen explained. “She got caught too far out and there was nobody back there to help her, nobody. She feels like crap because the goal was scored on her, but where were her defenders? And that’s something I’ll make sure she understands.”

Franklin didn’t give up and battled right to the final whistle. The Panthers wrested some control back in the midfield down the stretch and had a series of free kick opportunities for Anderson, Deforge, and midfielder Bridget Leo to put the ball into the box.

With two minutes to play, the Panthers nearly snatched a point. Leo sent an angled ball to the edge of the area and Kelly O’Connor rose well to head the ball down across the penalty area. Right winger Olivia Costa raced in at the far post and appeared to get a touch to it, but Canton keeper Marissa Staffiere was off her line quickly and smothered the chance, saving the win.

Senyonjo loved the way his team was able to bounce back from the loss to OA, and that his team gave him a nice present for his birthday on Thursday.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Saturday was an emotional game. The girls were disappointed but super motivated to come and play today and it’s a huge win, at home against probably the top team in the other division right now.”

The game was physical throughout with neither team giving an inch, but in the first 40 minutes the chances almost all fell to the Panthers. Only three minutes in, striker Anya Zub found space running down the left channel and forced Staffiere into a save at the near post.

O’Connor was a constant menace on the left wing. She was able to turn away from her marker and chipped a pass for Zub to race onto, the forward’s clever outside of the foot chip again forcing Staffiere to make the stop. Three minutes later, the duo combined again with O’Connor getting a chance to test the keeper.

In the 22nd minute, Franklin’s pressure finally paid off. Leo’s outswinging corner dropped to the foot of Selene Hammad about eight yards from goal. She scuffed her first attempt at a shot but on her second attempt lashed the ball inside the post, giving Staffiere no chance.

Chances kept coming for the Panthers. This time it was a Katie Ewald corner that was headed clear by Sullivan. The ball dropped for Leo on the half-volley but her shot went over the bar. After a turnover at the back, O’Connor played a near-perfect angled, low cross to Costa at the back post, but Staffiere read it well and dove out to stop the pass hitting its target.

“We just ran out of gas,” Geysen said. “That’s the best effort we’ve had this season. They really worked their butts off tonight. I said, if you keep playing the way you played tonight, you’re going to win a lot of games. You got unlucky tonight, the soccer gods weren’t looking your way.”

Canton (6-1-1) won’t have much time to celebrate the win, as the Bulldogs will be on the road on Friday against Foxboro. Franklin (5-2-0) can expect another physical encounter on Friday when it travels to Attleboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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