According to Coach John Brose, Cleveland’s play this year has been very inconsistent and lacking some much-needed team chemistry.
The aforementioned problems seemed a nonissue in Thursday evening’s 7-0 victory, as the Raiders came together for a dominating match against Rhea County,
Coming off of a tough loss to Soddy-Daisy earlier in the week, Cleveland was able to bounce back in its final 5-AAA match of the regular season.
“The thing that we’ve been really lacking is team chemistry. We’ve been real up and down throughout the year,” Brose explained. “We had a long talk with our guys (Wednesday), and I think that we came out and just played more together than we have all year. As a result of that, everything we do well as a team really fell into place because everyone was playing unselfishly.”
The Eagles seemed to evenly match up with the Raiders on the pitch for the first five to 10 minutes of play. Cleveland was able to control the majority of the game from the midfield, which translated into success for the on-and-off team.
“In high school games if you control the midfield, usually the game’s going to go your way. Even though Rhea was able to win some 50-50 balls early on, once we stepped it up after the first five minutes we were able to move the ball and open them up,” Brose said.
The first Raider goal came 15 minutes into the game after Alex Rodriguez, assisted by Jesse Jones, was able to get one past the Rhea goalkeeper.
Ten minutes later, Moss Jones, assisted by Mike Kanarski, got Cleveland’s second goal of the evening.
Jones followed his first goal up by scoring another goal seven minutes later, with Anfernee Avila getting the assist.
With just under three minutes remaining in the first half, Avila set up Chris Coyle to get the Raiders’ fourth goal.
Cleveland’s control of the game carried over into the second half, as it held the Eagles scoreless and continued to find ways to get to the net.
Already having two assists, Avila kicked one past the Rhea goalie just seven minutes into the second half, with the assist coming from Rodriguez.
Roughly seven minutes later, Kameron Dunn got the sixth goal of the evening, with Kanarski getting his second assist of the game.
Brandon Romero, assisted by Pedro Garcia, got the seventh and final Raider goal with 20 minutes remaining in the match.
“I think we moved the ball on the ground better than we have all season because we were playing one-two touch,” Brose commented. “We were able to find a lot of gaps and holes in their defense and create lots of opportunities on goal and our guys obviously took advantage of those opportunities.”
Both Cleveland goalkeepers Zach Martin and Gustavo Wilhelm saw action in Thursday’s shutout victory, with Martin getting the start.
As of today, Ooltewah is in first place, McMinn County is in second place, and Soddy-Daisy is in third place in the district.
The win over the Eagles puts Cleveland’s district record at 3-3, which should secure it the fourth seed going into the postseason.
“We lost to Soddy-Daisy on Tuesday and played really poorly. This is a good bounce-back effort for us after that game. Hopefully we’ll turn it in the right direction and get hot at the right time here with the postseason coming up,” Brose said.
If the standings remain unchanged, the Raiders are slated to host Rhea County in the opening round of the District 5-AAA tournament.
Cleveland’s Senior Night and final match of the regular season will be at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex on Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. against East Ridge.
BLUE RAIDERS 7, Eagles 0
Halftime score: 4-0.
Goals: Cleveland: Moss Jones 2, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Coyle, Anfernee Avila, Kameron Dunn, Brandon Romero. Assists: Avila 2, Mike Kanarski 2, Jesse Jones, Pedro Garcia. Shots on Goal: Cleveland: 21 Record: Cleveland 8-9, 3-3 5-AAA.