BENSON In the first half of their Greater Neuse River 4A Conference battle, the Garner and West Johnston soccer teams took turns controlling the midfield and creating modest scoring opportunities.
In the second half, there was no more taking turns and little modesty involved as the Trojans dominated the middle third of the field and tallied six unanswered goals to score a 6-1 road win over the Wildcats.
After West Johnston’s Ben Meshaw supplied the game with its first goal on a scintillating 40-yard run that culminated on a low shot to the near corner a mere 90 seconds after halftime, Garner wasted little time responding.
Less than two minutes after falling behind, the Trojans evened the score when Alejandro Carbajal’s corner kick found Alex Rodriguez who then redirected the ball past West Johnston goalkeeper Luis Ceballos to tie the game at 1-1.
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Then, in the 53rd minute, Carbajal was able to spin around his defender and waltz into the penalty box where he was taken down for a penalty kick. The junior midfielder converted from the penalty spot and the Trojans took their first lead.
Junior Ayala, Carbajal and Rodriguez then proceeded to help the visitors control the ball and mount scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity and, unlike in the first half, Garner was able to knock the door down with half a dozen goals in less than 37 minutes.
“There was nothing really wrong with the first half except that we weren’t getting the job done with our finishing,” Garner coach Jon Sherwin said. “So at halftime we told our guys to be a little bit selfish and if they only had one guy in front of them, to move the ball and try to get the score themselves.
“Sometimes, I think we work so hard on combination plays and passing the ball off that they are afraid to take that shot.”
The relentless attacking pressure led to goals from Ayala, Duncan Forster, Corey Morrison and Bryson White as Garner improved to 4-4-1 on the season and 2-0 in the GNRC.
Amidst the frenzy that was the second half, Ayala credited his team’s ability to remain composed as being key.
“Our mentality changed,” Ayala said. “We believed in ourselves as a team. After we got one goal, we got confident and then after the second goal we got more confidence and just played the game calmly.”
For the Wildcats, the Trojans’ move to a 3-5-2 formation in the second half did not go unnoticed, but West Johnston wasn’t able to counter the move.
Besides Meshaw’s blast at the beginning of the half, the Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) kept sending long balls down the middle of the field in hopes of having someone run them down, only to have those passes intercepted and lead to Trojan counterattacks.
“They came out in the second half in a 3-5-2 and we recognized it, we tried to do something about it but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over; it wasn’t working,” West Johnston coach John Asmussen said. “We played way too direct and played right into what they were doing. We didn’t exploit the width of the field and that’s what we needed to do to be successful.”
Ceballos recorded seven saves on the night for the Wildcats. Tyler McClymonds, Austin Stephens and Caleb Wynne combined for some dangerous forays into the attacking third, but in the end were unable to get the ball past Trojan goalie Logan Torruella.