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.
“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.”