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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Expectations are always high for the Needham High boys varsity soccer team. Entering the fall, there were significant question marks surrounding Jimmy Odierna’s club, especially considering the departure of a large 2019 senior class that made up the majority of the Rockets starting lineup last season.
Despite being a relatively young team, Needham’s chemistry developed quickly, and with that came winning soccer. A 13-3-3 regular season earned the Rockets the No. 1 overall seed in the Division I South playoffs. Following a first-round bye, Needham earned a 5-3 victory against No. 9 Hingham in the quarterfinals to set up a semifinal round date with No. 4 Silver Lake at Plymouth North High School on Thursday evening.
Less than two minutes in, Matt Dougherty was awarded a penalty kick after being hauled down on a break. Unfortunately, Dougherty’s PK bid was saved by a diving JJ Divine. Needham controlled the tempo for the remainder of the half, putting six shots on cage to Silver Lake’s two, but the game would remain scoreless at halftime.
Seven minutes into the second half, Needham finally found pay dirt. Senior Alejandro Agualimpia-Cadavid fired home a shot after a turnover by Silver Lake inside the box, giving Needham a 1-0 lead. With the Lakers still scoreless late and Needham peppering the Silver Lake end, senior Nathan Goldberg sealed things with a goal during stoppage time, doubling the lead to 2-0 and advancing the Rockets to Saturday’s South final in Hingham against No. 2 Brockton.
Following a scoreless first half on Saturday against the Boxers, Needham found themselves down 2-1 with 28 minutes to play following a penalty kick goal by Brockton’s Vanilton Xavier. With their season on the line, Needham responded and then some. Matt Fidurko tied the game at two off a feed from Steven Donovan with 23 minutes remaining, followed by a strike from Dougherty off a breakaway to put the Rockets ahead, 3-2, with just under 15 minutes to play. Dougherty completed the hat trick by depositing home a shot on a breakaway, doubling Needham’s lead to 4-2. Donovan sealed the victory and the South title by heading home a Matt Fidurko free kick two minutes later as Needham prevailed 5-2.
At the time of print, Needham will travel to Norwell High School on November 20 to take on North sectional champ Lincoln-Sudbury in the state semifinals.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram @flano0.