PLAINVILLE - The Bristol Central boys soccer team's last loss came against Middletown on the first day of the season. In the ensuing nine games, the Rams are 7-0-2 with five wins of at least two goals and competing for a top-10 spot in Class L with six games left in the regular season.
Central proved it can dominate lesser opponents and at least stay competitive with the challenging teams on its schedule, but in its most recent win, a 2-1 defeat of Plainville, the team showed it can make adjustments and survive a disappointing performance.
The win over the Blue Devils was the Rams’ sixth in a row, but their sloppiest performance of a winning streak that featured two clean sheets, a 4-1 win over Bristol Eastern and a 6-1 thrashing of Maloney. Plainville entered Tuesday’s matchup as a much improved team from when it lost to Central 5-1 earlier in the season, but the Rams struggled to execute at unexpected times in its most recent win.
“We found a little bit more success in the previous five games of getting forward and getting a few goals,” Central head coach Nate Jandreau said. “Our finishing, up until this point, has been really good. We’ve gotten contributions from a lot of different guys. Even [Tuesday], we had a freshman get his first goal, but then Mark finishes it up for us. We have a lot of different weapons. Over the winning streak, we’ve really been coming at people a lot of different ways.”
The Rams controlled possession in the first half, but failed to find the back of the net until five minutes before halftime. Creating chances was not the problem as much as finishing them. Jandreau said his players tried to do too much individually instead of making the necessary pass to another player in position to score.
He was proven correct when freshman Rafael Antonio gave Central a 1-0 lead from right in front of the goal after senior Carson Rivoira found him with a slick pass from the end line.
Scoring only came at the end of halves for the Rams in this contest as they did not retake the lead until the final five minutes of the second half when senior Mark Palma drilled a free kick. Plainville made effective strategic adjustments at halftime that focused on taking control of the midfield, which interfered with Central’s play. The Blue Devils created more scoring chances and eventually tied the game 1-1 by taking advantage of a defensive lapse from the Rams.
“They did a good job in the second half of getting us off our game and winning the ball a little bit more,” Jandreau said. “The midfield kind of fell asleep a little bit for 10 minutes and that’s when they got their goal.”
One challenge for Central in this game was playing without senior defender Umar Malick, who watched this game from the sideline. Malick’s absence forced Jandreau to change how he set up his back line and asked more of certain players to pick up some slack. Outside of allowing the one goal Plainville scored, which came off the foot of Gavin Bravado, who netted a precisely-hit strike.
“I thought Beckett Hennessey played really well,” Jandreau said. “We were down a guy, so we had to shuffle some dudes around and play different positions. All in all, I thought they played really well. It wasn’t really the defense that gave up that one goal. Beckett, being calm and controlled back there, did a really good job of trying to negate their through balls right through the middle of the field.”
As the upcoming games become more important, Central will have to avoid falling into these ruts to ensure it keeps winning. The Rams’ next contest is against Maloney, which they beat by five goals in their first meeting, but with more challenging matchups approaching, Jandreau thinks an improved mindset could aid his team.
“Our body language and our frustration when we get into these situations where things aren’t going our way, if we don’t get a call or we’re missing putaway goals, I think we as a team need to understand it’s the other team’s job to frustrate us. We need to make sure we don’t get frustrated with ourselves and we take advantage of our chances and come out firing from the first whistle,” Jandreau said.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.