As the game got underway, it was clear that ICSP would not simply roll over and allow Dalton to walk away with an easy victory. Dalton’s back line was shaky at the start, playing without three starters from their first white division matchup, Changhwi Park, HongJun Lee and Ryan Park. Senior captain, Jeonggon Kim and the rest of the back four struggled to communicate and win fifty fifty challenges. Freshman Solomon Choi and Sophomore Bushin Kim, both making their first crack into the starting eleven, played with a great deal of heart and physicality. Junior Takjun Oh, who usually starts at right midfield, was asked to join the back line for the benefit of the team. Through the first half, this squad struggled to hold the back line, clear balls, win fifty fifty challenges and play team defence.
After a few ICSP attacks were thwarted, Dalton looked to be in the driver's seat. Attack after attack, Dalton was able to work the ball into the attacking third and get into great positions to tally up the first goal of the match. However, the ICSP goalkeeper (having won the best goalkeeper of the white division tournament for the past two years consecutively) thwarted every opportunity. A penalty kick at the 20 minute mark looked to be the break Dalton needed. The homefield goal post thought otherwise, pushing junior captain Phillip Yoon’s shot back toward him.
It was only a matter of time before the ICSP counter attack struck gold. On a shot from the right side of the pitch, Senior goalkeeper Paul Han made a diving save. However, the rebound landed at the feed of the ICSP attack, tapping it in to the back of the net for an easy go ahead goal. This marks the second goal Dalton has allowed all season, both coming on rebounds. “Its something we’ve really got to work on, both offensively and defensively” said the Phoenix Report spotlighted coach of the week John Talbot following the game. “We’ve got to anticipate mistakes and be there for one another.”
At halftime the boys remained upbeat. While there certainly was a deficit they needed to overcome, they had confidence that what they were already doing was the answer.
Before the second half whistle a few changes were made by Coach Musselman to shore up the defensive issues. “We decided to move Eric [Kang] to center back to play alongside Tak [Takjun Oh]. In 2017, he was the first man off the bench, getting a ton of reps at that position. While he’s been a huge offensive force for us this year, we knew we could rely on him,” said Coach Musselman.
Eric made a huge difference along that backline, providing experience, physicality and a presence that raised the confidence of everyone else. The ball rarely passed the half field mark in the second half, but when it did it was decisively cleared or gobbled up by goalkeeper Paul Han.
Yet, the boys still couldn’t seem to capitalize on their attack. Frustration mounted, leading to a number of ambitious long range shots that missed their target. The game get more physical, and the boys started to really show their resilience. Their conditioning payed off. ICSP seemed to get tired, allowing junior center midfielders Miguel Batanero and Phillip Yoon to find space and deal the ball out to open wingers.
About 15 minutes into the half, freshmen Tylor Park made a brilliant run down the wing and was rewarded for it by Miguel Batanero. Tylor played a ball over to the far side of the net where Taeho Kim waited patiently, giving width to his attack. After muscling off a defender, he made a lateral pass to sophomore Jungmin Kim who was cutting toward the net. Jungmin battled through a defender and launched a powerful shot toward goal. ICSP’s brilliant goalkeeper made the save but gave up a rebound out toward the penalty stripe. Call it skill, knowledge, anticipation or luck, but none other than captain Phillip Yoon was in the right place at the right time. The left footed blast found the back of the net untouched to knot the game up at 1.
Unfortunately for ICSP, the point blank save their goalkeeper made prior to the goal would lead to him exiting the game. He would return later to apply pressure as a striker. After a brief delay for this injury, the game got back underway. Dalton continued to pressure, find space, control possession and make good decisions.
Phillip would strike again for the go ahead goal about 5 minutes later off a Miguel Batanero corner. The ball bounced around and failed to be cleared by the ICSP defense. Phillip muscled his way in and poked the ball past a hypnotized keeper. It was a scrappy goal, but anyway you can find the back of the net will do. Dalton went up 2-1.
Junior Taeho Kim would put the game out of reach with ten minutes remaining in the game to make the score 3-1.
With his start in this match, junior Eric Kang moves into third all time for starts for the boys varsity soccer team.
Concerns for moving forward will be the consistency and dedication of the defensive players. Are they committed to this team? Will the attack gets its confidence back and finish its opportunities? With 4 more conference matchups, and three more friendlies, time will tell. At 2-0, the boys hold a slight edge over KKFS (2-1) as the top of the league.