For games that weren't even on the schedule at the beginning of the year, the rivalry between the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) Impact U-14 boys and U-15 boys is turning out to be a good one.
Playing for the third time in the past four weeks, the squads put on another spirited battle for the assembled crowd, with the younger crew breaking through for their first win against their older clubmates Wednesday evening at the James Jerome Sports Complex.
Dominic Valentic netted the only goal of the game midway through the opening half and keeper Jakob Mancini made it stand in a 1-0 win. While the U-14 crew looked stronger throughout most of the game, they especially dominated the opening 40 minutes with the wind at their back.
Just eight minutes in, Cody Watson made a nice move wide to side-step one defender, cutting in from the left side but was closed out nicely by U-15 keeper Connor Vande Weghe.
The best chance for the older crew, early on, came courtesy of Imho Traore, who caught a ball clean from 30 yards out, but shot directly at Mancini.
Coach Nick Mancini would see his team continue to press, as Brandon Moxam one-timed a pass near the top of the box directly off the crossbar in the 17th minute.
The pressure finally paid off in the 21st minute as a shot from Eric Sampson was drilled off a U-15 defender, straight to the feet of Valentic, who quickly found the mark.
The red Impact crew looked to double their advantage some 10 minutes later as Watson and Camilo Rodrigue-Melo worked a pretty give-and-go, forcing Vande Weghe to be alert once again.
As time wound down on the opening half, both Moxam and Sampson missed chances in tight and one could not help but wonder if the squandered opportunities might prove costly in the second half.
Digging deep, the U-15 lads enjoyed their best chances early in the second half, but simply could not create a setting that one could unequivocally consider a quality scoring threat. There was, however, a better back and forth flow to the game throughout the final 40 minutes.
Just minutes after Watson drilled a left-footed shot wide of the net, Tshiondo N'Galamulume displayed a nice run down the right side, crossing to Traore who could not get enough on the header to do serious damage.
The U-14 Impact continued to display, from time to time, some adept ball movement, using one particular two-pass combo from defender Zack Nault to Curtis Carpino and forward further to Moxam in transitioning quickly to the attack.
The game was an aggressive affair, though not overly rough, with only a single yellow card assessed late in the contest to U-15 midfielder Josh Alvarenga.
A threat on offence throughout much of the game, Moxam said he is pleased with a positional move this year as he joined the Impact crew once again.
"Last year, they had me playing wide mid, but my coach noticed this year that I have more of an attacking skill, so I was put up front," he said. Blessed with speed and aggressiveness, Moxam displays a tenacity that is welcomed by coaches and teammates alike.
"You can't really give up once the ball gets by," he added. "You have to hustle back."
In fact, the soon-to-be St. Benedict Bear was on the receiving end of the tackle that drew the yellow card, though he didn't seem to mind a whole lot after the encounter.
"They have more aggression than we do," Moxam said, though the one-year difference in age quite likely factors in to some extent. "I like that kind of game, where maybe you get bounced around a couple of times. Our coach says that's the joy of soccer."
While the U14 Impact crew found themselves just one point shy of avoiding relegation from the Central Soccer League (CSL) after competing as a U-13 group last summer, the U-15 locals have made the jump to CSL play for the first time this year.
The bulk of their games are against teams situated between Barrie and Ajax, a step up in play that requires improvement throughout the entire roster, including goaltender Vande Weghe.
"Positioning is a big thing — in NRSL (North Regional Soccer League), you can get away with it because not every shot is as accurate as it is in the CSL. You really have to know your fundamentals."
Having just completed his Grade 9 year at St Benedict, Vande Weghe is often his own toughest critic, providing this honest assessment of his performance this year.
"I haven't been very consistent," he said. "Confidence in myself seems to be the biggest factor, that ability to know that when a shot is coming, I have the ability to make the save."
Because of the relegation at the end of last year, the U-14 Impact crew have been forced to search out quality tournament play in order to try and maintain their skill-set in the hopes of returning to the CSL for 2013.
The team recently returned from the 46th Annual Robbie International Soccer Tournament in Toronto, dropping 5-0 decisions to both the East York Gunners and Cavan FC '98 Boys before losing a tough 1-0 match to FC Mount Bruno from Quebec.
"Two of the teams in our pool went on to the semifinals, so we happened to draw a pretty strong group," coach Mancini noted. "It really was minor mistakes that costs us a couple of goals. We need to go down and compete at that level to get better. That's the difference between this year and last year."
The U-15 Impact boys are back on the road this weekend in CSL action, battling Weston on Saturday and meeting up with Aurora on Sunday.
Posted by Laurel Myers