Many of the names in the starting lineup have changed for Chancellor’s boys’ soccer team, but the Chargers’ identity largely has remained intact for most of this season.
Still, Mike Webb didn’t seem to recognize the guys in the white shirts for the first half of Monday’s 4A-East quarterfinal game against Monacan. The visiting Chiefs dominated play throughout a scoreless first half, and the Chargers had to dig deep to pull out a 2–1 victory.
“They just played harder than us in the first half,” Webb said of Monacan. “It just looked like they cared more. At halftime, we said, ‘Tactics aren’t going to win this game. You’ve got to want it.’ I thought in the second half, we were the better side.”
Goals by Eli Carr and Chris Jimenez earned the Chargers (16–3–1) the right to host a semifinal game against Smithfield on Wednesday. A win in that game will qualify them for a return trip to the 4A state tournament.
Last spring, the Chargers brushed aside Monacan 4–1 in the regional quarterfinals en route to a spot in the state championship game. Most of the principals from that team have since graduated, and Chancellor entered Monday’s game drained physically and mentally following a 2–1 overtime win at King George in last Thursday’s Conference final.
They also took the field Monday without their top scorer for the season, Ruben Niamien, who was absent for disciplinary reasons.
Those factors–and a brief downpour midway through the first half—had the Chargers on their heels.
“It was obvious in the first half,” Webb said. “We had the same draw last year, and I don’t know if they kids thought it would be an easy game, because it was Monacan again. But they outplayed us early.”
Monacan (10–9) outshot Chancellor 5–2 in the first 40 minutes. The Chiefs’ Taron Dixon hit the far post with a hard shot midway through the half, but Chancellor had the period’s best scoring chance. A sliding save by a Monacan defender prevented Chancellor’s Diego Arias from scoring.
Still, Chancellor was fortunate to be even at the break.
“We had some scoring chances in both halves,” Monacan coach Chris Thompson said. “It would have been nice to have taken advantage of more of them.”
Chancellor took a 1–0 lead midway through the second half on Carr’s booming shot from the top of the box that Monacan keeper Noah Carter couldn’t reach. “That was a world-class goal,” Webb said.
But the Chiefs responded just 70 seconds later, as Aaron Giser punched a rebound past Chancellor keeper Josh Reid.
The game-winner came with 6:38 left in regulation. Andres Correa served a gorgeous pass across the field to Jimenez, who headed the ball past Carter.
“I was actually surprised I scored,” Jimenez said. “It was a beautiful pass, and I managed to time it just right.”
Now it’s on to the semifinals, where the Chargers expect to have Niamien back. They’ll hope to play the same style for 80 minutes against Smithfield that worked for 40 minutes Monday.
“We play really hard,” Webb said. “Our system is based on how hard we press, and that’s how we scored our first goal. I think I saw that more in the second half.”