Despite flashing some glimpses of speed and skill the Walker Valley crew just couldn’t compete with the possession or precision of the Raiders. In the end Cleveland came out on the winning end of a 4-1 final in a big District 5-AAA match.
“I thought we played well tonight. We controlled large portions of the first half and possessed the ball very well. We had an extra man in the midfield and it paid dividends for us early,” explained Raider head coach John Brose.
“I still don’t feel like we have scratched the surface of what we are capable of doing. We came out a little flat, and that’s not the team we need to be,” stated Walker Valley’s head coach Tom Bayliss.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to keep the Mustang keeper busy. In the fifth minute of play a shot from distance forced a jumping save. As the ball rebounded onto the pitch Cleveland again shot the ball, only to be smothered by another keeper save to end the threat.
The Raiders had another good look in the ninth minute when their forwards broke free in space down the sideline, but the shot was pushed wide.
“Once again, we lacked a little of that killer instinct in the box to really push forward and come away with a goal,” stated Brose.
Walker Valley gained their first burst of offensive momentum in the 19th minute when a pass down the sideline found an open forward. Yet, the resulting shot attempt was again off the mark as both teams continued to search for the back of the net like a thirsty man questing for a drink of water.
The drought ended in the 38th minute when Seth Goza found Pedro Garcia who in turn found the back of Walker Valley’s net to put the Raiders on the board.
Mustang players scraped together one last attempt at the Cleveland goal, but as the official’s whistle sounded Walker Valley was forced to go into the half without a goal.
Cleveland came out firing in the second half, and in the 43rd minute of play Goza notched his second assist when a cross found Alex Rodriguez in a packed Walker Valley box to bring the score to 2-nil.
In the 54th minute of play the Mustangs appeared to be finding their stride. Their time of possession greatly increased and they began to work the ball down the pitch with greater authority.
But, just when thing were looking up for the home club Cleveland struck again. This time it was Rodriguez who found Goza in the 57th minute of play for Cleveland’s third goal.
A 3-nil lead made the Raiders a little complacent and Walker Valley was there waiting for the opportunity to strike.
It presented itself in the 60th minute of play when Mustang midfielder Marcus Houston broke free and put the home team on the board.
“Once we went up by three we relaxed a little bit, and they did a good job putting pressure on us. They have some fast kids up front and can make you pay if you drop your guard,” said Brose.
Cleveland rallied one last time in the 70th minute when Taylor Jewett laced a pass to Eric Ingraham who put a rocket through to bring the score to its final of 4-1.
“We need more fire as a team. We have the potential to hang with a lot of teams, but it comes down to a desire issue. We have to want it more to play to our potential,” Bayliss expressed.
There’s no rest for the weary as both clubs look ahead to very important district matchups Thursday.
Walker Valley will travel to Bradley Central for a Bradley County grudge match at 5:30 and Cleveland will host Soddy-Daisy at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex starting at 7.