First Half Goal Just Enough for KP at Canton

King Philip Boys Soccer
KP defender Matthew Clarke (15) and the rest of the Warriors back line kept Canton off the board to secure a 1-0 road win. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – The field seemed to be tilted towards the far end zone all night. In the first half of Thursday night’s game at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, King Philip threatened with every attack, creating a number of chances, and putting Canton on the back foot. After the break, the hosts turned the game around and suddenly had the Warriors on their heels.

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When you’re on top in the game, you have to find the back of the net. KP managed it once, junior Tadhg Keller tapping in a rebound in the 14th minute, and that turned out to be just about enough, as the back line held up against the Canton pressure and held on for a 1-0 win.

“They had a lot of momentum,” said KP coach Mike O’Neill about the pressure his team faced to preserve the lead in the second half. “I’m really happy. It’s a character win, these guys really grinded it out. It was close, it was touch-and-go for a while, but I’m proud of how my boys stuck to it.”

Canton had the game’s first shot on target, but it would end up being the only save that KP starting keeper Aidan Lindmark had to make in the first half, as the Bulldogs struggled to manufacture consistent offense in the opening 40 minutes.

KP grabbed control by exploiting the edges of the Canton defense. Junior Alex Leon had a bright start down the left and he slipped a pass into the channel for Andrew Robinson to have a shot just six minutes into the game. Five minutes later, Leon quickly turned on his defender and had a go from inside the box but hit the side netting.

In the 14th minute, KP got a free kick opportunity from about 25 yards out. Sophomore Caleb Casseta-Waxman curled a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net only for Canton keeper Alejandro Correal to fly across and get a fingertip to it and put it off the bar. The rebound fell to Keller, who took a touch to settle it before slamming the ball into the goal.

“I thought we played a relatively complete game today,” said Canton coach Danny Erickson, “but soccer comes down to moments and we fell asleep admiring our goalkeeper’s save. They didn’t fall asleep and they buried a rebound and that’s what happens.”

Just a minute later, the lead was very nearly doubled. This time KP attacked down the right. Wesley Orzell and Owen Teixeira played a one-two to get Orzell into space and he burst past the defender on the end line. The senior looked up and slid a pass to Casseta-Waxman, who was unmarked in the six-yard-box. Only a heroic intervention by freshman Carson Eagles kept the goalbound shot from hitting the back of the net.

The chances kept coming for the visitors. Evan McEvoy teed up Teixeira in the right channel and his shot flashed into the side netting, confusing some in the crowd, on the KP bench, and the scorekeeper who all thought it had gone into the top corner.

Stephen Griffin managed to hold possession against several Canton defenders and he set up McEvoy for a 20-yard strike that Correal held for one of his five first-half saves. A long cross from right back Matthew Clarke picked out Keller for a free header with just minutes to go before halftime, but the shot was easily grabbed by Correal.

Whatever was said at halftime seemed to work for the Bulldogs. Canton came out of the break inspired and instantly started to put pressure on the KP defense.

“I’d love to take massive credit for an inspirational halftime speech,” Erickson joked, “but I thought we were showing signs of really good stuff in the first half and we focused on those things. Honestly, they started winning some battles and feeling good about themselves and that results in good things.”

Just three minutes into the second half, Dylan Baird had a shot from a long way out that new KP keeper Grant Orzell had to collect at the second attempt, just in front of Jacob Crugnale. Five minutes later, Crugnale had a go from distance that took a touch off a KP boot before going over the bar. From the resulting corner, Colby Cifolillo rose highest but his goal-bound header was deflected wide of the post.

“We’re still a team that’s struggling to create chances and finish and that’s something that we’re going back to the drawing board to keep working on,” Erickson said.

Midway through the second half, freshman Jorge Sanchez set up Crugnale for a one-time hit but Orzell was able to get behind it. TJ McCabe had several shots from the edge of the box that the defense had to charge down. Despite the chances they were able to create, the Bulldogs just couldn’t find a way through and the KP back three of Clarke, Jordan Hoyle, and Jeremy White held firm.

“They are the core of this team and they are the rock, the wall we build, and we really rely on them,” said O’Neil of his defense. “In addition to be excellent defenders, they’re really skilled, composed, and they know what they’re doing.”

KP had a couple of chances on the break to try and put the game away. The best chance came for Anthony Zappala, but his curling effort from distance was collected by Canton back-up goalie Giovanni Ruggeri.

King Philip (3-1-2, 2-1-2) will get nearly a week off before traveling to division rival Attleboro on Wednesday. Canton (1-3-2, 1-3-1) will try to end its three-game losing streak when it hosts Sharon on Monday.

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Pair of Set Piece Goals Lift Franklin Over King Philip

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Franklin senior Nitin Chaudhury makes a move on the sideline during the first half of Franklin’s 2-0 win over KP. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – In a game that featured hectic action in the midfield and few chances from open play, Franklin got a huge double save and a pair of goals from set pieces to beat King Philip 2-0 in the mist on Wednesday night at Pisini Field, earning the Panthers their first two points in the league this season.

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“It was a good win,” said Franklin coach Fran Bositis. “I have a tremendous respect for (KP coach) Nick Gale. I think his teams are always well-coached, they play hard, play good soccer, and it’s been a while since we beat KP (since Oct. 2015), so it was a really good win for us.”

Not surprisingly, the game started with the ball largely confined to the midfield area. It took nearly 15 minutes before either team would fashion a shot on goal and it was the Warriors who had the first good chance.

Senior Anthony Bozza dropped deep into the space in front of the Franklin back line and played an inch-perfect through ball to John Cullen. Franklin goalie Jack Rudolph was quick off his line to cut down the angle and was able to block Cullen’s first chipped shot and then also get a hand to keep out the rebound.

“Tony brought it from a wide area in and John made a nice backside run and we got him in,” said Gale. “Everybody says that the first goal probably changes the game, so John maybe could’ve changed the game if he had scored that.”

A minute later, KP had another go from the edge of the area with a low drive by junior Matthew Clarke, but Rudolph was able to get behind it and make the save.

Franklin took its time getting into the game but soon was closing down all over the pitch, compressing the space and not giving KP much time on the ball, particularly outside backs Kevin Flynn and Matt Szczepanowski. The pressure eventually paid dividends when the Panthers earned a corner with a half hour gone in the match.

Junior Donny Tappin played a cross into the center of the box and freshman defender Terry O’Neill nodded the ball down into the turf and over sprawling KP keeper Nick Beltramini. It was O’Neill’s second goal in as many games and he has already shown his worth on the defensive side too, forming a solid partnership with junior Sam Stowell.

“He definitely doesn’t play like a freshman,” said Bositis of O’Neill, who also scored Franklin’s goal in the loss to Milford last time out. “He’s just very steady.”

The Panthers added a second goal 12 minutes into the second half. A free kick from just inside the KP half by Stowell angled towards the edge of the box. Beltramini came a long way to get the ball, but senior Nick Barry rose highest and was able to get his head to the pass just before the keeper was able to punch. The brave flicked header doubled the Franklin lead, but Barry took a blow from the keeper in the process and was unable to return to the game.

“We’re going to have to be more disciplined giving up throws or set pieces deep in our own end,” Gale said about the defending on set pieces. “We’re going to have to do a better job recognizing where we are on the field and giving up fouls deeper in their end, not ours.”

Beltramini kept the Warriors in the game down the stretch as Lucas Moura tested him with a one-timer following a turnover and another free kick was headed down by Jacob Cummings into the path of Sam Molloy, who forced a diving save from the KP keeper.

The Warriors were struggling to create scoring opportunities for most of the second half. While the ball flowed through midfield, particularly through the feet of Zac White, the ball did not get to the forwards very often.

“I ask my guys to be courageous in trying to play our style and really dissect defensive structures,” Gale explained. “I really want them to see the game in a different way, but at the same time we find that we’re over-patient. Then you’re not really creating any chemistry up top, whether playing the ball in behind or into the strikers, so we struggled doing that for most of the game.”

KP did create a couple of chances late in the game to try and cut into the deficit. Sophomore Evan McEvoy fired a shot from long distance that drew a save from Rudoplph and then had another go from outside the box with two minutes to play, but it was also saved.

While content with the win, Bositis admitted that there is still a lot for the Panthers to work on. He said, “We’re still very much a work in progress, but I feel like everyone in the league feels the same way. We’ve missed a lot of practice time or its been cut short…because of the weather. We had a good game tonight.”

Franklin (2-1-0, 1-1-0) will travel to Canton on Friday night, while King Philip (1-2-0, 1-1-0) will be on the road to face Milford.

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