With sectionals starting a week from today, any tinkering soccer coaches need to do must be done quickly.
Both coaches acknowledged their clubs needed a little something after Shenendehowa edged Niskayuna, 1-0, on a goal by Phil Barrett in the eighth minute of their Suburban Council boys’ soccer game Tuesday night. The Plainsmen and Silver Warriors both have one game remaining in the regular season, with the postseason pairings to be drawn next Tuesday.
Shenendehowa dominated the first half on its Senior Night, but had just the one goal to show for a lot of time on the ball.
“Soccer is a spatial game, so if there are a bunch of players in the middle, and you play the ball really fast wide, that’s fine,” said Plainsmen coach Jonathan Bain of his team’s tendency to play the ball back into pressure.
“We were trying to force everything through the middle, and it wasn’t there. We’ve got to be able to put the ball down wide and make the run and then maybe go to the middle.
“Against a good team like Nisky, it’s a chess match. You can’t be one-dimensional.”
Bain made one key change early, moving Barrett up from central defense to forward. The senior captain added even more speed to the Shen attack, and the move paid off quickly.
“He might have scored about two minutes after we moved him up top,” Bain said. “Phil’s a competitor and a worker. You always know you’re going to get an honest day’s work when he’s out there.”
Barrett worked himself into a soft spot in the Niskayuna defense, and his teammates did a good job finding him.
“We found Chris [Schmid] in the middle, I think from Miles Burbank, and Phil made a nice bending run away. Actually, their goalkeeper did a good job on it, but Phil was able to sneak it by his hand and into the corner. A nice setup and a beautiful goal.”
Niskayuna bent but didn’t break the remainder of the half, then began the second half with more pressure.
“We played much better in the second half,” said Silver Warriors coach Joe Carosella. “We moved Tyler Hanft up to go with Lucas Faranda up top. Luke is big and strong, but Tyler’s a little more east-west as well as vertical. He put some pressure on them and opened up some spaces, so we got a little more sustained pressure.”
With his partner in the middle of the back four playing up front, it was up to junior James Homan to keep things in order in the
“When he goes up, I have a little more responsibilty back there, to make sure everything stays in order,” said Homan. “But we’ve got a lot of guys who are good defenders.”
Homan actually had the two best shots of the night, one a laser from 40 yards that just missed.
“They didn’t close down the space, and it was there, so I took a shot,” Homan said. “It would have been great if it had gone in. But I’ve go to be sure when I go forward.”
“James is a really good, smart defender, and he’s working on some technical parts of his game that have gotten a lot better,” Bain said. “That volley, that could have been the goal of the year.”
Shenendehowa’s fifth straight win puts the Plainsmen at 12-2-1, with Thursday’s finale at Shaker to decide the top spot in the Suburban Council North, and likely the No. 1 seed in the Class AA tournament.
“We’ve been playing better,” said Homan. “These last two games are like sectional games, because we’d like to be the No. 1 seed. Games like this one feel like sectionals. It gets you ready.”
“We’re making baby steps,” said Bain. “I thought the first half was a good step in the right dirction, but then Nisky came out and played a lot better in the second half, and I thought we took a half-step backwards. Like every game, you know what you have to work on next training session.”
“Obvously, this is another disappointing loss,” said Carosella after his team fell to 9-5-1. “All of our losses have been on the road, and we’ve been shut out in all of them.”
The Silver Warriors play Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the second half of a boys/girls double-header Saturday evening at Union College. Niskayuna is looking for the highest possible seed as it looks to reach the “AA” final for the second straight year.