On Monday night, Boys’ Varsity Soccer beat the Scotts Valley Falcons in their first game of the season. 

From the start, the Bears had possession of the ball and controlled the tempo of the game. Building up from the back was key to the success of their attack. Within the first five minutes, senior defender Ntsika Mtwa played a long ball across the field to freshman right winger Nicolas Cortez, who took a strong shot from outside the box that went just wide. 

The Bears continued with a high press throughout the half, keeping the ball in the opponents’ half and maintaining possession by passing around the midfield. They played a patient game, waiting to feed the attack. 10 minutes into the half, sophomore Nathan Thurlow played the ball to junior Cameron Leung, who dribbled past a defender and into the penalty box. He was about to shoot, but was clipped from behind—the referee called a penalty kick. Leung stepped up to take the kick and scored with ease, putting the Bears up 1-0. Thurlow said, “My favorite play of the game was my link to my boy Cameron and he drew the penalty and scored it.” 

Despite the 1-0 lead, the Bears continued with an aggressive attack, focusing on playing the ball out wide. On both sides of the field, they focused on possession as they passed in triangles between their center mid, full backs, and wingers. Their type of play sucked the Scotts Valley players out wide, leaving their center vulnerable to attacks. Their strategy is perfectly described by M-A Head Coach Leo Krupnik’s shouted advice: “Use space” and “Be patient.” 

A failed counterattack from the Falcons gave M-A time to reset and use the free kick to launch an attack. Senior center midfielder Jacob Goldberg played the ball wide to Leung, who passed the ball through two defenders to Thurlow. Thurlow dribbled past another defender and took a bent shot with the outside of his right foot, which he fired into the bottom right corner of the goal, increasing the Bears’ lead to 2-0 with 22:06 left in the first half.

M-A’s defense shut down every attempt by the Falcons and still played like it was 0-0. Their hustle was unmatched, and whenever the game was getting too fast, they slowed it down by passing back and forth and simply keeping possession of the ball. Another shot by Thurlow late in the first half went straight into the bottom left corner, making it his second goal of the game. The first half finished with M-A up 3-0. 

The second half started with an M-A kickoff, and many substitutions from both teams. The fresh legs obviously made a difference, as the game became more competitive. Despite new energy from Scotts Valley, M-A maintained momentum throughout the second half, despite not scoring. With 3:40 minutes left in the game, M-A got a free kick a few feet outside of the box. Junior Alexis Escobar took it and shot the ball right at the Scotts Valley goalie, who fumbled it. Sophomore Lucas Selvick tapped it in to increase the Bears’ lead to 4-0. 

Despite an emphatic victory, Krupnik said, “We always want to improve game in and game out, defensive game, and the way we control the ball. I don’t expect the guys to be playing at their best right now—we want to be at our peak towards the end of the season, going into the playoffs.”

Senior Arya Agah also stated, “I think we have a strong team, and a young team, so obviously we are building for the future seasons of M-A Soccer. I think this season alone we can do some work and get a solid playoff run.”

Ishy Mishra is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School and is in her first year in journalism. She enjoys writing opinion pieces on a variety of things and about M-A sports teams. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and her dog, Monty. She also plays lacrosse, is part of leadership and loves going to all the M-A sports games to support her community.

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