Maybe Austin Coates was joking when he called it ‘the biggest win of his career,’ but it was certainly a night Smithfield-Selma’s first-year boys soccer coach will remember.
After watching his club fall to Clayton by three goals in last week’s season opener, Coates saw the Spartans return the favor Wednesday by a 6-2 margin on the SSS campus. It was the initial victory of the campaign for Smithfield-Selma – and the first in Coats’ brief coaching career.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am,’’ Coates said. “It’s just the way the Clayton-SSS rivalry is. It’s always a great game and nothing less than that.’’
The Spartans (1-1) proved to be the more resilient team in the second half and finished the contest with three unanswered goals. Clayton dropped to 2-1 with the loss.
Never miss a local story.
Down 3-1 at halftime, Clayton quickly pulled to within one goal thanks to a tally from Juan Alvarado just 44 seconds into the second half. However, SSS’s Alfredo Martinez elevated for a header off a corner kick from Nilton Perez with 28:33 remaining in the contest to help the Spartans re-establish control.
“That’s trouble,” Clayton coach John Asmussen said as Perez’s corner sailed toward the box, where Martinez was waiting for the finish. It ended up being the play that swung the match back in the Spartans’ favor the rest of the way.
Three who mattered
Nilton Perez, Smithfield-Selma: Clayton’s solid midfield work helped the Comets possess the ball for a major portion of the first half.
But Smithfield-Selma’s overall team speed, especially from Perez, helped the Spartans counter with precision. SSS had only four shots on goal in the first half, but three of them went into the net, with Perez claiming two of the markers.
“It’s all about patience,’’ Coates said. “The guys on our team – they know their positions. It’s a great thing, and it’s something you can’t really team. That speed really helped us, but we can’t rely on it all season.’’
Alfredo Martinez, Smithfield-Selma: Martinez’s header provided the most electrifying – and most important – goal of the contest. Martinez also scored off a breakaway in the first half. Like his second-half marker, that goal also helped the Spartans push their advantage back up to two goals.
Juan Alvarado, Clayton: Alvarado used his speed up the wing to record both of Clayton’s goals. His heroics early in the second half drew the Comets closer, but Smithfield-Selma would have a scoring response 11 minutes later. Alvarado now has four goals and three assists this season.
By the numbers
23: The age of Coates, who played for the Spartans for three seasons before graduating from North Johnston.
7: The goal differential between the regular season opener (won 4-1 by Clayton) and Wednesday’s rematch.
“When we played (SSS) the last time, we jumped on them early, and were fortunate to hang on in the second half,’’ Asmussen said. “We just came out (Wednesday) and got outplayed in all aspects of the game. (The Spartans) were quick to the ball and made good decisions.’’
5: The number of breakaways recorded by Smithfield-Selma’s speedy forward group. Four of those chances ended up in the back of the net.