FOXBORO, Mass. – With the division title picture already wrapped up, Thursday night’s showdown between Foxboro and North Attleboro wasn’t about league standings, but instead a preview of what’s to come in the postseason.
The two teams traded a pair of second half goals, finishing level, 1-1, at Sam Berns Community Field.
In years past, North and Foxboro wouldn’t cross paths once the regular season ended. But the new alignments implemented this season have both Big Red and the Warriors in the Division 2 South tournament.
“Under the lights, on the turf, on a cold Fall night…that’s pretty much what we’re going to be seeing as we go forward in the tournament,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess. “We’ll probably be on the road a good portion of us. So this was great mentally for us, especially to score first. If we can just find a little composure to close games out…the same thing happened on Tuesday [against Milford].”
Foxboro was fresh off a 1-1 draw on Tuesday against Canton. The Warriors had nearly a dozen scoring chances go begging in the second half against the Bulldogs.
The Warriors picked up right where they left off on Tuesday, even attacking the same goal. But unfortunately, it was more of the same. Foxboro continued to build offense and register chances, but failed to find the back of the net in the opening 40 minutes.
Just over five minutes in, sophomore Dylan Barreira’s flick put senior Matt Rongione in behind on the right flank, but his low service towards the back post went without a recipient and rolled just wide.
North’s first chance came just before the half hour mark. Senior Ryan Pasquel’s free kick just over half was batted around at the edge of the area before Zach Matracia got a shot off, but it went well over the bar.
Foxboro had back-to-back chances in the 31st and 32nd minutes. First, Barreira’s corner kick was met by Mike Moses’ header near the penalty spot and then left back Will Regan launched a shot from distance, but Matracia made comfortable saves on both bids.
“They dominated us in the first half, we had really nothing going on,” Burgess said. “I thought we had a better run in the second half, we decided to kind of sit and counter, which is our play usually. We noticed they were only defending with really four guys and I thought if we could get on the counter a few times we could create some opportunities, and we did.
“I thought we had some really good chances, I thought we should have had a PK – it was close. I give them credit, Barreira and [Shane] VandenBoom, those kids are great with those flicks and the through balls. And No. 15 [Nic Beigel] played an outstanding game, the defensive midfielder.“
North’s first chance on the counter came in the 55th minute when outside midfielder Josh Rodriguez sprinted onto possession near the top of the box. Rodriguez cut back to create some space but his shot was partially blocked and Foxboro keeper Bobby Harrison came up with the stop on the bounce.
Just a minute later, the Rocketeers had a shout for a penalty when sophomore James Sales played Jeff Gale into the the area, but Ryan Kelley’s tackle got just enough of the ball to allow for an easy stop by Harrison.
Big Red finally broke through in the 67th minute after earning a free kick close to the corner on the left flank. Noah Barney dished a low service into the area that was touched by Zach Matracia back to Sales right in front for the easy tap in and a 1-0 lead.
Foxboro nearly responded immediately in the 68th minute when Beigel and Kelly combined atop the area, the former ripping a low shot that clanked off the left post and right back into the grasp of Matracia.
But Foxboro continued to apply the pressure and broke through in the 71st minute. Once again, Beigel and Kelley combined, sending Beigel into the area. But before the junior could unleash a shot, North’s Andrew Fontaine came through with a great tackle.
The ball rolled right to junior Hussein Kafel and he tucked his shot in at the back post to bring the Warriors level.
“We just really didn’t get a lot of our offense going,” Burgess said. “We tried to possess but they are very physical and that kind of takes you out of your game and I they got into our heads a little bit. Every time we went into a challenge, we started looking for them and instead of watching for the ball, we’re looking for the Foxboro kid.
“That back line is all seniors,” Burgess added. “And then sitting in front of them, Sales and Pasquel, are the keys. Sales is only a sophomore and he doesn’t get a lot of credit. He’s really solid back there. If I can get him to sit a bit deeper and play a little wiser, no one is going to get behind us. That 4-3-2-1 counter-attacking style, and those two guys really protect Kevin [Aguilar] and Andrew [Fontaine] in the center. We don’t make a lot of mistakes, we just had one really bad games where we laid an egg. Brendan Matracia had about six or seven great saves, stopped a couple breakaways.”
Foxboro finishes the season at 10-4-4 overall, and 8-4-4 in league play. Seeds for the tournament will be released on Wednesday.
North Attleboro boys soccer finishes its league record at 9-1-6 and its first-ever Davenport division title, which it clinched with a win on the road at Milford on Tuesday. The Rocketeers (10-1-6 overall) will wrap up its season at home in a non-league clash with Attleboro in the annual Leach and Garner Cup.