By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER-- Heading into the regular season Gloucester head boys soccer coach Armando Marnoto stressed fitness.
The head coach made it a point to whip his team into shape during the preseason with lots of running at practice with the intent of wearing opponents down late in games.
In Thursday’s home opener at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium, Gloucester did just what its coach had envisioned in the preseason as it was the fresher team in the second half en route to an important 3-2 win.
“That was part of our preseason planning, to get the guys in shape to last 80 minutes,” Marnoto said. “I told them at halftime, we will wear them down in the second half and that’s what we did. It was a gutsy win, Marblehead is a really good team.”
The win was an important one for the Fishermen, who move to 3-1 on the year, a far cry from the 2-2 record a loss would have given them.
“Walking off the field tonight at 2-2 would have been unacceptable,” Senior captain Kevin Rogers said. “This was a huge win for us in our first home game. We started strong and finished strong.”
With the score tied at 1-1 at the half, the Fishermen took control over final 40 minutes in what was an evenly played matchup in the first half.
Gloucester continuously beat Marblehead to loose balls and won the vast majority of 50/50 balls in the second frame while ratcheting up the offensive pressure.
In the 54th minute Gloucester took a 2-1 lead off the foot of senior captain Calvin Kipruto, who curled a free kick just inside the far post from just outside the box past a six man wall.
Gloucester’s lead, however, was short lived as Marblehead’s sustained pressure was rewarded when Kaya Ulcay blasted a shot into the back of the net to tie the score at 2-2.
With momentum in Marblehead’s favor, the Fishermen stayed calm, and stayed the course continuing to play sound defense and dominate territorially.
In the 60th minute Gloucester would get the game winner thanks to some nifty passing and a clutch finish.
Rogers threw a cross into the box that Dan Carpenter gathered and crossed to Ryan Belanger on the far post. Belanger would finish the job and give his team a 3-2 lead.
“That was a beautiful goal,” Marnoto said. “I think this new field really gives us a home field advantage because we can play the wide game when we have to. The passing and the finish on that goal really showed how the team is coming together.”
The Magicians attempted to pressure over the game’s final 20 minutes, but the Fishermen were too fresh and they continued to dominate the game territorially while earning a few more quality scoring opportunities in the process.
Marnoto was quick to praise striker Dan Carpenter, who was all over the Magicians defense for the duration of the game. He also praised his defensive unit of Alex Dahlmer, Anthony Taormina and Stephen Gross playing the 3-5-2 scheme to perfection.
“It was Danny’s first time playing striker this year and he gave us a lot of energy tonight, he went to the goalie, he went at the defenders, he was great,” Marnoto said. “Our defense was also excellent playing a 3-5-2. I think that’s going to be our new formation because our defense is so fast and physical and they can keep up with anyone.”
Marblehead got on the board in the 19th minute when Ulcay converted after a Gloucester defensive breakdown. At the end of a back and forth half Gloucester got on the board when Alex MacDonald took advantage of a Marblehead defensive miscue to tie the score at 1-1.
After Marblehead got on the board in the first half, Gloucester began to find its groove and controlled the remainder of the contest.
“After that first goal coach brought us in, relaxed us and slowed us down. We really came together after that, “ Rogers said. “We were a little anxious at the start playing our first home game but once the nerves wore off we started possessing the ball, getting our touch down and playing good soccer.”