The wind was whirling, and the sun was high in the sky at kickoff. Making his first career start for Dalton was a vocal and talented upstart 8th grader, Kevin Bae. He would be busy in the first half as the boys got off to a very slow start. Kevin recorded a number of saves, was quick off his line, and handled difficult high balls in traffic. Corners continued to be a threat for the Phoenix, as they can not seem to win a 50/50 ball in the box. Luckily, that failing did not hurt them throughout the game, but it will certainly be an issue that coaching must fix moving forward. Freshman, Ricky Kim, and sophomore, Eric Kang (freshly back from an ankle injury) spearheaded the defense for the entire 80 minutes.
It appeared that Dwight had much more confidence than they did in their first meeting a month ago. In the first matchup, Dalton controlled possession and the tempo of the game finishing off the Lions 4-1 easily. After about 10 minutes, Dalton settled down into its usually creative passing game. Making his first start of the season, Miguel Batanero, and Taeho Kim made creative runs down the wings which caused chaos along the Dwight defense. Working the ball down the right sideline, Taeho was able to thread a ball in the box to Philip Yoon who was able to collect it and fire a shot. Though his first shot was blocked, he collected the rebound and hammered home the first goal of the match (his second of the season). It looked like that was the spark that Dalton needed to break things open, freshman Jungmin Kim and senior Bumjoon Kim played extremely well, connecting a high percentage of their passes throughout the match.
However, 30 minutes into the second half, there was a lack of energy and effort on the pitch which Dwight took advantage of for their first goal. A bouncing ball found its way into the box which center backs Ricky Kim and Eric Kang had trouble clearing. A feisty Dwight player beat them both to the ball and skillfully put it past goalkeeper Kevin Bae. It was the first goal in 110 minutes that Dalton had allowed. An astronomical amount of dribbling turnovers in clear passing situations really zapped energy from Dalton and provided extra work on the defensive side of the ball.
Dalton responded by going back to what was working well, playing the ball down the wings to their midfield or overlapping backs. Miguel Batanero would receive a ball just inside the edge of the box where he was clattered and awarded a penalty kick. Although sophomore Batanero hasn’t played soccer for the Phoenix since their final game 11 months ago, his skill and composure remains. His left footed penalty kick zipped past the keeper for Dalton’s second goal (Batanero’s first goal since 2015).
At halftime, Dalton switched goalkeepers as there is currently a competition for the nod in the tournament. Sophomore, Danny Lee, looked rusty in the first few moments but then settled in as the half progressed, recording a number of saves. Very quickly, Dalton put up their third goal, by again attacking down the wings. After some nifty passing between numerous players, Miguel Batanero found his way down the wing playing a cross across the mouth of the goal where Bumjoon Kim was able to get a foot on it. The ball sailed up and over the keeper's head for his 4th goal, in as many games.
The game looked wrapped up until the clock struck the 70th minute. The Phoenix midfield began playing very sluggish football and the quick attack of Dwight took full advantage of those turnovers. After lacing a ball off the inside of the post and to the back of the net, Dwight cut the lead back to one which put everyone on edge. It was ten brutal minutes, but in the end Dalton was able to fend off the comeback for its fourth straight win.
Dalton will now take a week off for spring break before hosting ICSU on April 5th. With Kent still undefeated, Dalton still has work to do before claiming the division title. While all of the boys played well, they still need to clean up their passing and set play defense if they are to make a run at the tournament title.