By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Stoughton dominated for the majority of the first half but a lack of serious scoring chances sent them into the halftime break knotted in a scoreless game against Diman.
That all changed in the early minutes of the second half as the Black Knights found the back of the net less than three minutes into the second half and added another 10 minutes later as Stoughton advanced in the playoffs with a 2-0 win over Diman.
In the 43rd minute, senior goalie Kyle Silverman sent a free kick from just outside his own area all the way up field and over the top of the defense. Senior Josh Mitchell chased in after the ball behind the defense and a simple header caught the Diman keeper a little bit off his line and found the back of the net to make it 1-0.
“I said to the boys, the first 25 minutes we were dominating possession and it looked we were going to create something but there wasn’t any clear cut chance for us,” Stoughton head coach Aaron Salter said. “It reminded me of the Canton game – scoreless at halftime and we were nervous. I didn’t feel like we were going to concede but we were panicking up front. We needed to relax and lucky enough, we came out good. It was a good pass from Kyle and Josh headed it very well.”
Just 10 minutes later, Silverman launched a punt up the right side of the field. Off a bounce, freshman Fabio Ponce de Leon brought the ball down with a terrific touch and outraced his defended to the end line. The first year midfielder then centered the ball with a cross that deflected off a defender and right to the feet of Loubensky Lucas, who calmly buried his chance from 12 yards out to make it 2-0.
“Once that went in, we settled in and we looked a little bit more lively,” Salter said. “The second goal was a good finish by Loubensky with a good run from Fabio. It was a game where we got the result in the end.”
Stoughton had a couple of chances inside the first 10 minutes but none that tested the Diman keeper. First Mitchell had a chance at the near post in the 2nd minute and then got his head to a cross from Noah Schulze in the 8th minute but both went over the bar.
In the 13th minute, Ponce de Leon got his head onto a long throw into the area from Mitchell but it went just wide at the far post. Ponce de Leon nearly opened the scoring in the 17th minute after Lucas took a long clearance and used his speed to get by the defense. His cross was headed by the freshman but a Diman defender was there on the line to clear it out.
Diman’s best chance came with just over 20 minutes left in the first half when a ball over the top was run onto by Dominic Rocha but Silverman came charging out and Rocha’s bid sailed over the bar.
In between goals in the second half, Mitchell nearly had a second when he took a free kick quickly but it was just over the bar.
The visitors’ lone chance of the second half came just over midway through the period when Alex Moura played a ball wide for Brian Carreiro, who served a tempting ball into the area but Silverman came off his line to punch it away.
“I didn’t feel like we were going to concede,” Salter said. “Especially the last three games, that’s our third clean sheet in a row. It looks like they’ve finally got it together. I can’t fault anyone on the backline today, they were all brilliant. Goddy [Fombe] is the coolest, calmest head I’ve seen in my life, but he scares the heck out of me sometimes.”
The game was delayed for a lengthy amount of time with just over two minutes two play when a collision between a Stoughton player and Diman’s keeper resulted in an injury. Diman’s goalie was forced to be taken off in an ambulance.
Junior Matt Gallagher nearly made it 3-0 with a minute left, getting his head on a corner from Jordan Asnes, but Diman’s backup keeper did well to stop the chance.
Stoughton will now travel to #2 Greater New Bedford (17-1) on Friday with kickoff set for 6:00.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.