By Nickolai Sukharev
GAITHERSBURG — The Walt Whitman Vikings emerged victorious after defeating the Gaithersburg Trojans 3-2 under the rain Monday evening at the James H. Harville Stadium to clinch a place in the semifinals of the MPSSAA boys varsity soccer 4A championship.
With four of the five goals scored in the first half, the Vikings managed to take a 2-0 lead in the first 18 minutes of the match, forcing the Trojans to chase the game, with Whitman coach Dave Greene saying it was “the best soccer we’ve ever played.”
“It was just playing selfless; we were playing our game and passing a lot,” said Vikings senior captain Thomas Mande. “Once we got those goals, all our players were working on defense.”
After two late goals toward the break that gave the Vikings a 3-1 lead, both teams slowed the pace match and attempted to catch each other on the counterattack before a late Trojan goal finalized the 3-2 score line.
“I believe we made too many mistakes in the beginning,” Gaithersburg coach Eric Cava said, summarizing the match. “Missed clearances, not marking up and doing a team like Whitman, they’re going to punish you for those mistakes.”
Just 11 minutes into the match, the Vikings pounced on a missed clearance, which allowed senior forward Ian Poe to volley the ball over Trojans goalkeeper Jonathan Lovo and into the net.
A minute later, Vikings senior forward Ryan Machado Jones dribbled down an unguarded right flank to score with another long-range volley.
Being behind 2-0, the Trojans reorganized themselves to compress the play in the midfield and press forward. Senior forward Emmanuel Uduh received a short pass in the Vikings box, but his shot hit the crossbar.
Senior Trojans midfielder Jose Franco Coreas followed up with his own effort, but the ball went just past the post.
The Trojans’ efforts paid off when a scramble by the Vikings backline allowed junior forward Oscar Barrientos to score after picking up a loose ball, eight minutes from the halftime.
With a minute remaining, the Vikings expanded their lead after junior defender Hunter Lee headed the ball into the upper corner.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Trojans pressed on, in an effort to get into the match.
Led by senior Moses Korlor, the Trojans midfield attempted to find a way past their opponents, but the Vikings backline led by Lee remained organized and attentive.
The Vikings thought they had scored in the second half, but senior forward Natan Rosen struck the ball into the side netting.
Rosen followed up with another effort, but Lovo deflected the ball with his legs.
With less than two minutes remaining, Barrientos found himself unmarked on the right flank to volley the ball into the far corner and score his second goal of the match.
Reflecting on their eliminations the previous season, Greene and Cava attributed to the success of their teams this year to “chemistry.”
“I believe last year we had talent, but this year I believe was just more willingness to work for each other,” added Cava, whose team was eliminated at the same stage in 2017. “I didn’t know how we were going to be this year [since] we lost half the team but they came together and found ways to win games.”
“They’re a year older; they went through a really bad experience last year, but they can rely on each other,” said Greene, whose team was eliminated in the second round of the 2017 playoffs.
Whitman will play Broadneck High School from Annapolis on Nov. 10, at Dr. Henry A Wise, Jr., High School for a place in the state final.