Despite the hype, it was relatively a low key game with both sides possessing and moving the ball well. But, in the end it was Bradley’s killer instinct in the box that made the difference as they walked away with a 2-nil victory over their cross county rivals.
Bradley’s offense was in attack mode right out of the gate, and in the very first minute of play the Bears laid down a good cross that resulted in a shot on goal that was pushed just high of the Walker Valley net.
That theme continued for much of the first half as Bradley continued to maintain the majority of control and push the ball past midfield, only to be stopped by Mustang defenders or the keeper.
Every now and then a flash of Walker Valley’s offensive speed could be witnessed as a pass broke down the sideline or was volleyed from midfield, and in the 14th minute it paid dividends with the first serious Mustang shot attempt.
Yet, just when Walker Valley appeared to establish some kind of offensive rhythm the Bears would strike back.
A scoreless tie was nearly broken in the 31st minute when a Bradley shot missed by inches after Walker Valley’s keeper, Brad Hoffner, had been drawn out to defend. Hoffner was able to get back to the goal just in time to push the incoming shot a hair’s breadth away from the goal.
The Mustangs dodged another bullet in the 37th minute when Bradley continued to pepper the goal. Walker Valley was unable to successfully clear the ball, resulting in numerous Bear corner kicks and inbounds to waiting strikers.
Despite the sticky situation, Walker Valley was able to hold resolute and Bradley’s attack was once again turned away.
As they half began to wind down the Mustangs appeared to gain some steam, possessing better and finding themselves in and around the home goal.
But, the killer instinct just wasn’t there for Walker Valley’s offense. Numerous opportunities in the box did not even result in shot attempts, and those that did muster shots were easily corralled by the Bear keeper.
A decent attempt came in the 31st minute of play when a Mustang striker broke free and laced a ball across the pitch, yet the attempt was pushed just wide of the far post.
Both teams played with purpose as the half quickly expired. Neither team wanted to go into the break with a goose egg on the score board.
However, that’s exactly what was in the cards as the officials sounded the whistles and send the squads into the half knotted at nil.
It was Walker Valley’s turn to come out strong when play resumed.
In the 43rd minute Vince Rollins broke free for the Mustangs and put a solid shot on goal that arched just shy of the Bradley net.
Play came to a head when a Bradley offensive push loaded the Walker Valley box and Martin Zaragoza pushed a heel shot through to touch the back of the visiting net after the ball had rebounded off the masses, finally putting the home team on the board in the 44th minute.
Five minutes later, Miles Christian broke free in space and made the Mustangs pay when he launched a rocket of a shot that zipped past everyone and into Walker Valley’s net to bring the score to 2-nil.
Bradley continued to get quality shot attempts by packing the box, but some solid defensive play and an inspired performance from Hoffner kept the Bears from further extending the lead.
While the home team launched into continuous offensive sorties, that more times then not came away with a shot on goal, Walker Valley was content to push the ball down the field with gusto only to come away with a turnover.
Both teams displayed some solid play on both sides of the pitch throughout the match, but the sheer attack mentality of the Bear offense was the resounding difference in the 2-nil final.
Walker Valley won’t get much time to recuperate as they travel back home for a match this evening against Marion County at 5.
Bradley will resume play on Tuesday as they travel to Grace Academy to face to Golden Eagles with a start time of 7.