By Jeremy Balan
The names on the roster may be familiar, but University High School has a markedly different boys soccer team.
The youthful but inexperienced squad that went 8-11-7 last season has matured physically and in cohesiveness, evidenced by a dominating 2-1 non-league win over International on Friday night at Kimbell Playground.
The score does not accurately convey the way the game went for the Red Devils (1-0), who controlled possession and dictated tempo throughout, while dominating scoring opportunities. University also hit the crossbar four times on shot attempts and had a goal negated by an apparent foul.
“It was a very mature performance for our first match and I can’t remember a first match from any of my teams that looked as sharp as that,” said University head coach Deejae Johnson. “I’m not worried about the score. I’m glad we got the win, but what we created and how we controlled the tempo for the majority of the game [is what’s important.]”
The Red Devils struck first in the 17th minute, when Michael Lauricella sent a pass in between International defenders to find junior Jack Wilson, who slid the ball past goalkeeper Gabriel Landaverde.
The next goal came in the 26th minute, when Landaverde made a solid save on a long-distance shot from University’s Kirk Horton, but could not control the rebound. Behind the International defense was an unmarked Diego Lopes, who easily tapped in the goal.
Lopes, only a sophomore, not only scored the eventual game-winner, but consistently set up teammates with creative and accurate passes during play and on set pieces.
“He’s a special player,” Johnson said of Lopes. “We like that kind of guy, a crafty guy who has a lot of vision and great skills. He’s going to have a really nice season.”
The Red Devils took a 2-0 lead into the halftime break, but could not extend their lead further. Despite again controlling play in the second half, International cut the deficit to one, with a little bit of luck.
In the 61st minute, International senior Reid Sata sent a crossing pass toward the net from the right wing. Fellow senior Alex Beaudouin made an effort to volley the ball toward the net, but did not make solid contact, sending the ball spinning to what appeared to be wide of the net. But instead of bouncing wide, the ball had such tremendous spin that it kicked backward and into the net past University goalkeeper Colin Snedden.
After the goal, University picked up right were they left off and controlled possession again, eating up most of the clock before a final International push fell short.
“We were pretty lucky, I mean, they had three or four crossbars,” said International head coach Carlos Bover. “We played against a team that deserved to win.”
The Jaguars (0-2) did make improvements in the second half, but still couldn’t break the constant University possession.
“Our energy was much more positive in the second half,” Bover said. “We were outplayed, but we’re trying to fight our own battles. We’re happy we played better than our first game and we’re going to continue to improve.”