Real Maryland 2- Wilmington Hammerheads 1
For the first time in Real Maryland’s history, the Monarchs have won back to back games. At 3-3 the expansion outfit sits in fourth place on the USL-2 table.
Despite these accomplishments, head coach Silvino Gonzalo was not in the best of moods after Saturday’s match. “A win is important, but I’m not very happy because we did not play the soccer I want this team to play,” Gonzalo said after leaving the locker room. “It’s important to get three points and I am happy about that, but I am not happy with the overall performance.”
Gonzalo knows better than anyone that if Real Maryland continues to play the way it did Saturday night, the results will not continue to go its way.
The Monarchs’ win was a workmen like performance, substance rather than style. This was a victory that should be credited to persistence more than anything else.
In front of a packed home crowd the Monarchs started the brighter of the two sides, creating their first genuine chance after only seven minutes when Dennis Alas’ well struck free kick was tipped just beyond the far post by John Gerard O’Hara in the Wilmington goal.
Real Maryland then looked set to take over the game when Trey Alexander was shown the red card after only 20 minutes for a dangerous tackle from behind. Instead, however, Real Maryland fell asleep. Wilmington promptly marched down the field, won a corner, and Mark Nerkowski was left all alone to give Wilmington the lead against the run of play.
This was the fourth headed goal and second from a set piece conceded this season. The Real Maryland defense needs to be more organized on crosses and dead ball situations. Monarch players need to know who they are marking and stick with their opponent’s runs.
After the goal, the Monarchs went right back on the attack, but often looked out of ideas in the final third. While Wilmington often had 9 of their 10 men behind the ball, no one wanted to make penetrating runs into the heart of defense. The ball was often played negatively. Passes went back and across, but hardly ever forward.
One example is on the flank where Real Maryland players were often one on one with a marker who had no covering defender filing in behind him. Instead of taking his man on and getting to the by-line, however, the Monarch midfielders seemed content on sending early crosses into a crowded penalty area where the Monarchs had no numerical advantage. The early cross is often a good weapon, but the play needs to be mixed up.
None of the Monarchs’ seemed to want the responsibility of trying to create space by beating his man one on one. At the same time, the players off the ball shied away from jack-knifing runs intended to carve open a tightly knit defense. Often, the man on the ball was left with only two options, to play the ball back or square.
In the center of the park, Alas was running the game. His long diagonal balls were the most penetrating of all the passes played and they often effectively switched the point of attack.
That said, however, Alas still sits a bit too far back. With Angel Higueras now in the holding role, Alas should have more freedom to move up the pitch. By sitting back, Alas leaves a space between the forwards and the midfield that if utilized would close the gap, create more opportunities for combination and link-up play with the forwards, and give Alas the chance to rip shots closer to goal.
We’ve seen him strike from 30 yards. Imagine what he could do if his shots were ten yards closer. The outcome would surely be similar to when he found himself at the top of the 18 to crack home the winning goal against Cleveland.
With the Wilmington defense packed and a lack of runs from Real Maryland, it is no wonder that both Monarch goals came from set pieces.
Dennis Alas’ free kick was perfectly struck, but O’Hara is partly at fault for giving up a free kick goal that was struck in the exact same manner as the previous free kick.
Nilson Perez made no mistake with his penalty kick. Ronald Cerritos, a 75th minute sub, won the PK because he took it upon himself to take the shot that resulted in the hand ball in the box. Cerritos was duly subbed in the 83rd minutes, but the injured captain had done his job.
It still seems, however, that if the ball had never struck the defender’s hand, a tie would have been the best Real Maryland could have hoped for.
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