By Jeremy Balan
In soccer, an opportunistic defense can often be the a team’s best offense, and it was that strategy that was key in Stuart Hall’s 2-1 Bay Counties League West win over Urban School Wednesday on Treasure Island.
The Knights (4-1-1, 2-0) got their second-consecutive standout performance from their back line of Grant Kawahatsu, Alibrando Petrini, Sterling Kirk and Cole Benz, as the quartet continually disrupted the Blues (1-4-2, 1-1) attack and created counter-attack opportunities.
Those counter opportunities led directly to both of the Knights’ two goals.
“The defense is stepping it up big,” said Stuart Hall head coach Antonio Villegas. “It’s what we’ve been working on, getting the ball in the back and counter-attacking. Fortunately today we got two of them.”
The first goal came on a penalty kick from Carlos Guardia in the 11th minute, after Tim Connoly broke away from Blues defenders and was fouled from behind in the penalty area.
The second came in the 72nd minute, when Skyler Dayton powered a close-range shot past Urban goalkeeper Andrew Echeguren after he snuck past Blues defenders on a perfectly-placed through ball from senior midfielder Grey Beudin.
The goal proved to be the eventual game-winner, as the Blues added their own penalty-kick goal in the 80th minute.
Still, it was the defense that held off the Blues for nearly the entire match, only allowing five shots on goal, most of which were on set pieces from considerable distance.
“Our defense is definitely the strength of our team,” Kawahatsu said. “Our midfield could be stronger, but we have some really good players in the back who know how to move the ball well. That’s how we got our goals.”
For Urban head coach Anthony Reyes, the game was most disappointing because the Blues were without a full roster for undisclosed reasons.
“We came in a little shorthanded today, but that takes nothing away from the effort [Stuart Hall] put out on the field,” Reyes said. “Hopefully our team learned from some silly mistakes we made off the field today and we played shorthanded because of that. The important thing is that we get better.”
Both teams jump back into BCL West play on Friday, with Stuart Hall hitting the road to face perennial league power Marin Academy and Urban playing University at Crocker Amazon Playground.
The Knights may be without starting senior midfielder Kovi Vordzorgbe on Friday, after he injured his shoulder after a collision with Echeguren early in the second half.
“I’m looking for my guys to work as hard as they can [on Friday],” Villegas said. “It’s probably the biggest game that they’ve had and the guys are pumped for it.”
SH: 11th minute — Carlos Guardia (penalty kick)
SH: 72nd minute — Skyler Dayton
U: 80th minute — Evan Chang (penalty kick)