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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Home games have been the bread and butter for the Wellesley High School boys soccer team in 2017, as entering Tuesday night’s contest with Framingham, the Raiders (9-2-1) sported a 6-0-1 record on their home turf. Despite trailing 2-1 in the second half, the Raiders battled back with three consecutive goals and eventually earned a hard-fought 4-3 win to push their unbeaten home record to 7-0-1.
Daniel Frei got the scoring started for Wellesley a little under 11 minutes into the contest to put the Raiders ahead 1-0. Junior goalkeeper Anders Pineau made a series of big saves on a loose ball in the box with about 10 minutes to play to preserve the one-goal lead, but Framingham would finally put one home on a free kick with a little over seven minutes to play to knot the game at one at the half.
Following halftime, the Raiders changed up their scheme to try and navigate the ball through the middle of the field a little easier. Framingham took a 2-1 lead at 29:18, but the change in approach quickly began working wonders for the Raiders, as Wellesley netted a pair of goals just 1:17 apart from one another to seize a 3-2 lead. Senior defender Nicholas Kolb headed in a free kick by Frei at 28:13 to tie the game at two. Nicholas’ brother, Christopher, then made a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Ryan Clare, who broke free into the box and fired the ball into the top right corner to give Wellesley back the lead with 26:30 to play.
With just over eight minutes left and Wellesley clinging to a 3-2 lead, Oskar Haeberlein gave the Raiders what would prove to be some extremely important insurance with a bomb up into the top right corner of the goal from about 15 yards away, extending the lead to 4-2.
Two minutes after the Haeberlein goal, Framingham fired home a strike to cut the deficit to one at 4-3. However, the Raiders completely locked off the center of the field during the final six minutes of play and also did a tremendous job of securing the ball deep in the Framingham end to help chew up clock. Framingham was awarded one final free kick during stoppage time, but the ball was batted away by a sprawling Pineau. The final whistle blew and the Raiders emerged with the 4-3 win.
“It was a battle,” said Wellesley head coach Tim Mason. “Honestly, it probably could have gone either way. Framingham had a pretty good first half but we changed formations up at halftime and I thought we were better in the second half. They are a good team, really technical and crafty, really good with one-on-ones, so it was a big victory for us. First time we’ve beaten them since I’ve been here.”
Mason said that the halftime adjustments played a pivotal role in the Raiders being able to nab three straight goals during the second half, inevitably allowing Wellesley to come out victorious.
“So, they were beating us in transition a lot, overloading us at midfield so we plugged that up a little bit and put some of our bigger bodies back there and it definitely gave us a little more space up top. It worked out in our favor. We had that big wave of momentum and just kind of went through those stages where you get one and you’re ready to go out and get another. The guys did a good job executing on those chances.”
Mason also credited his team’s ability to fight until literally the final whistle in terms of managing the clock and doing whatever it takes to secure the victory.
“We’ve worked on doing what we need to do to finish off a game a lot. Sometimes in the past, historically, we’ve been a little bit too nice in those closing moments and the late stages. Teams like Needham, Braintree, and Weymouth are really good at doing those types of things - like bringing the ball into the corner, killing the time and doing all the dirty things and being smart. We’re still trying to learn that, because you can practice it in training all the time, but until you do it in a game, you can’t really learn it completely. We haven’t been involved in a huge amount of close games this year so we looked at that as a great opportunity to work on that aspect of our game.”
The Raiders will travel to Natick on October 26 before concluding the regular season at home against non-conference opponent Tewksbury.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.