Middle Creek had a few chances. Green Hope had a lot more.
All that mattered on the scoreboard was which team finished off more of them for goals.
While the Green Hope boys soccer team came tantalizingly close time and again, it was held off the scoreboard on Wednesday night in a 1-0 loss to Middle Creek.
The Mustangs (4-0-3, 1-0) won their Southwest Wake Athletic Conference opener to remain undefeated. Middle Creek had not beaten Green Hope in at least six years.
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“Everyone has finally bought into the idea of team first. We’re staying organized with a lot of communication and work rate. It’s been big for us,” Middle Creek coach Eddie Wasdell said.
The game’s only goal came from Mustangs sophomore Chris Wallace. John Eaves had found Wallace on a long through ball, then Wallace shielded a defender before taking a touch around the goalkeeper and tapping in the 19th-minute tally.
Wallace is a sophomore who tore his ACL before the season last year.
“I had been playing soccer since I was 3. I had never sat on the bench and watched a full game before. It was a learning experience. It gave me more drive to play hard,” Wallace said.
The Mustangs’ forwards also pressured Green Hope’s back line.
“We essentially try to put enough pressure on the ball up top and in the middle that it forces them to maybe not play the exact perfect ball that they want,” Wasdell said.
Many of Green Hope’s shots seemed to go right to Middle Creek goalkeeper Cameron Cornwell, a sophomore.
Part of that was due to the Mustangs’ back line getting good positioning. The defenders also caught the Falcons in an offside trap multiple times in the second half.
“I made sure that at all times, when we didn’t have the ball, the wing backs were checking back and marking up,” Cornwell said. “Communication was critical. Not just me, but all of the backs were fluid with everything and just really helped. Communication in my opinion is the most important thing in goalkeeping. Yeah, there’s saves, but communication separates keepers.”
Green Hope (3-4, 0-2), meanwhile, is getting tired of close.
The Falcons fell to Cary for the first time since 2009 a day earlier, 3-0.
“It was almost identical,” Green Hope coach Michael Hoy said. “Tonight (Middle Creek) had one or two chances. Last night (Cary) had three and scored all three.”
Green Hope’s best chances weren’t necessarily shots. There were crosses who just missed their intended targets, who could’ve volleyed them in for a goal.
“We feel like we need to prepare a little better,” Hoy said. “Things that we’re missing – timing, finishing, getting on the end of five or six pass combinations – it’s all timing or sharpness. And those are little tiny things where if you give that little extra ounce in training, you’re getting to those.”
Green Hope lost senior midfielders Owen Foster and Owen Jeffs, two of the better starters on last year’s 4A East runner-up squad, to torn ACLs before the year began.
It would’ve been hard to replace one, even more so two.
Hoy has been trying out different lineups to see what works. Even though it’s the Falcons’ third straight game without a goal, he is optimistic his team can find that finishing touch for the rest of SWAC play.
“It’s a long season. If we win out, these first two (conference losses) won’t matter,” Hoy said. “It’s one of those things where you have to fix the things you think you’re missing and then you have to move on as soon as possible.”