Campbell Keyes brings the ball forward, as Needham applies continuous pressure in the first half.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Needham boys’ soccer team kept its undefeated record with a comeback win over the Milton Wildcats last Tuesday night. Spoiling Milton’s senior night, the Rockets’ Marco Flano would score his second goal of the game with just over five minutes left to give Needham a 3-2 victory.
Needham was pressuring Milton early in the game, averaging nearly a corner kick every two minutes from the 34th to 27th minute (meaning 34 and 27 minutes left in the half). Harry Clapham and Matthew Brayer had a couple opportunities, with Brayer's shot at around the 15th minute going long. Late in the half, Milton had a near breakaway chance on the counter after taking the ball off Flano’s foot, but their shot went wide. Both teams went to the corner of the field tied 0-0 at the half.
In the second half, in the 38th minute, a defensive mistake from the Rockets’ defenders led to a Milton goal. While the defenders were distraught, the rest of the team seemed to become more determined and pressured Milton very hard immediately after. They had a good scoring opportunity in the 33rd minute when Noah Goldstein sailed a ball too high while looking for the corner. Finally, in the 22nd minute, Marco Flano scored on a ball in front of the net that Milton couldn’t clear to tie the game at 1-1.
Milton’s goalie deserves credit for a diving save in the 19th minute, but it led to a corner that caused a bunch of chaos in front of the net, only for Marcus Trubucco to end up with the ball and score. Up 2-1 with around fourteen minutes left, Needham looked to be cruising when a low, stinging ball from Noah Goldstein forced a diving save from Milton's goalkeeper.
But just a few seconds, later Milton was too fast on the counter and scored to make the game 2-2, as Needham’s goalie punched the ground in frustration.
Dilin Meloni’s free kick sailed over the crossbar at the ten minute mark, and three minutes later, Goldstein’s half volley forced a diving save. Finally, with 5’24 left in the game, Needham took a timeout with the game still tied 2-2. Straight out of the timeout, a Brayer cross found Flano and Needham was up 3-2. Milton brought their goalie out of the net and into the Needham box on a last minute, desperation corner kick, but couldn’t find a head, and Needham killed the clock to take the 3-2 win and move to 11-0-4 on the year.
After the game, coach Jimmy Odierna was very impressed with Milton, noting how well they played and what a fight they put up.
“That was a hell of a battle from Milton," he exclaimed. "They played outstanding. They have a couple of great forwards and some good speed up top, and their defense and goalkeeper played a great game and held us at bay the entire first half. Their goalkeeper had some amazing saves. In the second half they took advantage of their opportunities and put some away. They kept us on the run, and I would say we were lucky to escape here with a win today.”
When pressed on whose performance stood out to him individually, he looked to the Milton sideline instead of his own, declaring: “Their goalkeeper. Their center back. Overall, just the outstanding play of a couple of their guys who stepped up big today.”
Coach Odierna said his team was frustrated they couldn’t find the back of the net, but weren’t panicked when they found themselves down a goal, as there were still 37 minutes left in the game. And while Flano scoring so quickly after the timeout might have you believe Coach Odierna made some kind of huge tactical change, when asked what he said to the team during the pivotal moment, he noted he didn’t have to tell them a whole lot.
“I didn’t say much. I just said ‘Do you want this? Because if you want it, we’ve got to put it away.’ It wasn’t without fight. We definitely had the heart and fight out there. We were working hard. But they had a great game plan and executed it well. We had to battle hard to get that one, and to show the willpower we needed.”