The Rocketeers’ final two opponents — Foxboro and Mansfield — head into their season finale’s needing points to qualify for the state tournament. The Warriors, who visited Beaupre Field on Tuesday afternoon, needed one point (a draw or win) while Mansfield needs a win on Thursday afternoon.
North Attleboro passed its first test, scoring a goal in each half to secure a 2-0 win over Foxboro and deny the Warriors a postseason berth.
“You go down against them, how many goals have they’ve given up all year? Not many,” said Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino. “They stay compact and keep it tight. To be fair, they were the better team. Our passing was just a little bit off, I think our intensity from the start wasn’t there. So give credit to them, they came out and beat us today.”
The hosts, who entered the contest with a playoff berth secured via a second-place finish in the Davenport, learned a valuable lesson from their first matchup with Foxboro. Despite taking an early lead, North Attleboro saw the Warriors score back-to-back goals to earn a comeback win.
“We’ve had moments where we scored first, like we did against them last time, and fell asleep,” Burgess said. “So we’ve been really conscious about that. But when we [get a lead] and decide to park the bus, we’re pretty confident. We knew they were going to push because they had to, and as soon as we scored that just kind of fed right into the game plan.
“We saw on film where there were moments that [Foxboro] defended with two guys. I know [Matt] Mordini is faster than half of the defenders in the league, and I know [Matt] Conley is faster than all the defenders in the league. So that gives us a great chance to surprise people.”
This time around, the Warriors need to score played right into the game plan of the hosts. With a defense-first mentally, the Rocketeers’ counter-attack style led to a handful of breakout chances, mostly in the second half after taking a 2-0 lead.
Despite missing out on a golden chance three minutes into the game, the Rocketeers did jump in front on their second chance which came in the 24th minute. Goalie Kyle Briere launched a deep ball over the top of the Foxboro defense that Joey Coscarella made a run onto. The bounce eluded Coscarella, but the run drew a defender free of Matt Mordini, who was able to just get his shot off before the oncoming keeper, placing it into the top corner for a 1-0 lead.
Foxboro’s best chances of the opening half came off free kicks. Junior Dylan Barreira put a shot on goal from 20 yards out but Briere (eight saves) was in position for the stop. Joe Cusack set up the other chance in the 34th minute, putting a free kick into the area but Tim Behn’s bid was over the bar.
“It seemed like we were building out of the back in the first half and we just couldn’t find that final pass,” Franchino said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on our back four. I think we were off in completing passes, breaking lines in the middle third. We didn’t try to play direct, there was some space behind but we didn’t have the intensity. But give credit to North, they came and played well today.”
The game really opened up after North Attleboro doubled its lead just under four minutes into the second half. Mordini played a ball wide to Matt Conley, who got a touch to center the ball and Coscarella latched onto a half volley, finding the bottom right corner to make it 2-0.
From that point on, the Rocketeers had a handful of chances to add to its lead but couldn’t solve Foxboro keeper Dylan Tierney (10 saves). Foxboro had its share of chances but only came up with a pair of serious threats against Briere.
Just minutes after the second goal, another long ball from Briere found Mordini but Tierney made a big one-on-one stop and the rebound fell back into the keepers’ arms. Six minutes later, North senior Alex Pfeffer got a hold of a clearance that forced Tierney into a terrific diving save.
Foxboro junior Jeremy Neale kept the game at a two-goal deficit in the 55th minute by clearing a chance off the line. After Tierney made the initial stop on Coscarella, Mordini’s follow up chance was inches away from crossing the line until Neale intervened.
A change in formation led to more chances for Foxboro over the final 20 minutes. Cusack found Barreira at the back post on a free kick, but Barreira’s high touch was corralled by Briere. Two minutes later, Barreira had back-to-back free kick chances but the first was saved by Briere and the second just skipped wide at the post.
With Foxboro pushing, North’s counter-attack was on as Conley got in behind on a partial breakaway but Tierney came up with another big stop.
Barreira, who was almost always surrounded by a sea of red jerseys, had a shot blocked in the 67th and the loose ball fell to Will Morrison, but his blast went over the bar in the 67th minute. Max Beigel played a quick 1-2 with Barreira but his shot from atop the area was gobbled up in the 75th minute.
Briere put an exclamation point on the shutout with a terrific diving save in the 78th minute, robbing Barreira on a free kick from just outside the area.
“That was a big part coming in, we knew they’d come at us full boar cause they needed the game, they needed a point,” Burgess said. “Mansfield is in the same situation on Thursday so we have a chance to treat both of these games like playoff games. I think it’s great preparation going forward.
“We focused on taking Barreira out of the game, we moved [James] Sales to a different position, he was playing the six instead of the 10. Every set piece, he was always around Barreira, because he killed us last time as he probably he does a lot of teams.”
With Foxboro needing just a point entering the game, Franchino was asked if there was any thought about playing a similar defensive-first style that North plays, but the head coach noted the team was looking for a win to get in.
“That’s not the style we play, we could have had a draw to go through but for me, I was looking to not play the number one seed and get over [North Attleboro], that was my mentality, that’s always my mentality,” Franchino said. “We could have [sat back from the beginning], but I think we if set back, and with the intensity we didn’t have, we would have gotten bombarded. I want to win the game, want to be confident and try to instill that in my players.”
North Attleboro (8-5-3 Hockomock, 8-6-3 overall) will host Mansfield in both teams’ regular season finale on Thursday. The Hornets are unbeaten in seven straight with four straight wins and need a fifth straight in order to qualify for the state tournament. Foxboro finishes the season at 7-8-3.