Having both graduated centerpiece players from their respective boys soccer teams, Frederick and Walkersville showed the kind of promise that can guard against a serious dropoff from the previous season.
But on Tuesday at Frederick High, the Cadets and Lions experienced a problem that often provides a roadblock for teams at all levels: finishing.
Frederick and Walkersville played to a 1-1 tie. Both teams had reason to walk away feeling good about themselves, but they also regretted not cashing in on scoring chances.
There’s the Lions (0-2-1), who started the season with two one-goal losses in the Oakdale Soccer Classic and longed for a result that was more indicative of their play.
“I’m real proud of how our guys played because they came out — after a couple of tough losses over the weekend — and just turned it on,” Lions coach Phil Shortt said.
For the better part of the first half, Walkersville enjoyed a significant edge in possession behind some strong play in the midfield, and sophomore Mauricio Gallegos buried a shot from near the top of the penalty box off a feed from Gaim Obambe in the 26th minute.
Then there’s the Cadets, who pushed right back, constantly buzzing around the Walkersville net for the opening 20 minutes of the second half thanks in large part to some strong play from midfielder Mario Majalca and forward Dalton Shifflett, who from the top of 6-yard box ran onto a quick pass from Denzel Rodriguez.
Frederick doesn’t have the kind of impact player such as Cristian Urbina, who provided a nice blend of speed and athleticism that he now showcases at Hood College. But Cadets coach Jarron Brooks likes the promise two new players, senior Kenny Estrad and sophomore Jahiem Jamieson, have shown early in the season out on the wing and at attacking midfielder, respectively. Meanwhile, Urbina’s younger brother, left back Kevin Urbina, can become a factor on set pieces with his ability to deliver nice serves into the box.
“Some of the guys are trying to figure out chemistry, how each other plays,” Brooks said.
Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off their best season in more than a decade, and they must make up for the graduation of Luke Gaffigan, who led the county in goals last season.
Walkersville still brings back Luke’s brother, Eyob, who moved into the midfielder position after playing on the back line, in addition to a potent scorer up top in Gallegos. But Shortt has liked how freshmen Haven Thomas and James Mollet have worked together with the younger Gaffigan to form what he sees as a stout midfield group. Meanwhile, senior Ethan Miller, a factor as a forward and a wing last year, now wins his fair share of 50-50 balls as an attacking center fielder.
“We got 100 minutes of time out these guys, where they were pushing, pushing, pushing, and they probably had another 10 minutes left,” Shortt said.
In the end, neither team did enough to win Tuesday.
Shiflett delivered two nice crosses during the match — one to Rene Rodriguez in the 30th minute and another to Jamieson in the 52nd minute. Rodriguez’s shot sailed just wide of the right post, and Jamieson’s shot hit the crossbar.
In the 65th minute, Miller got behind the Cadets’ defense and his shot went wide right.
“Unfortunately, I’d like to say we had more opportunities than they did,” Shortt said. “We just didn’t put them away.”
Both goalkeepers had something to do with that.
Cadets keeper Andrew Layman made a critical save on a strong free kick from Gaffigan during stoppage time in regulation, jumping high to make a fingertip grab. Meanwhile, Lions keeper Thomas Sniezek made two diving stops on Jesse Velasquez in the 77th minute.
Layman finished with seven saves, and Sniekek had four.
After the Cadets grabbed the lead, Shiflett delivered a nice cross to Jamieson, who’s shot hit the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
“We created enough chances, we didn’t take care of them,” Brooks said. “Final balls kind of let us down, but it was a good match.”