Jadon Redding estimates that he and his Colonial Forge teammates devoted two full practices this week to the choreography of set pieces.
It was time well spent.
The Eagles capitalized on a pair of free kicks to build an advantage over Mountain View, then withstood the Wildcats’ frantic second-half surge to eke out a 2–1 Commonwealth District win on Friday.
“We knew with the rivalry that it was going to be a choppy game, and we were going to get those chances,” Redding said.
The Eagles’ first opportunity presented itself in the 31st minute. A wall of Wildcats thwarted the initial shot, but Jake Cover tracked the rebound and deposited it with his left foot from close range.
Unimpressed by his team’s 1–0 lead at halftime, Forge head coach Adam Spinelli advised his players to guard against complacency.
“I told the boys at halftime that I felt like we were on the back foot and that Mountain View was kind of controlling the game,” Spinelli said. “I told them the next one was the most important one, and we had to go get it.”
Thanks to Redding’s right foot—and an assist from a unexpected gust—the Eagles secured their insurance goal on a free kick five minutes after play resumed.
“My job on that is to put the ball back post,” Redding said. “Luckily, the wind pushed it a little farther and put it in the back of the net.”
Trailing 2–0, the Wildcats diverted extra resources to the offensive cause. Rangy defender Chris Gonzales was among the reinforcements, and he netted the Wildcats’ lone goal off a corner in the 60th minute.
The Wildcats (4–2–2) then mounted a desperate search for an equalizer, but it eluded them to the final whistle.
“Going down two-nil, we didn’t put our heads down and quit,” Mountain View coach Andrew Offineer said. “We didn’t stop playing. We kept fighting, and kept working, everybody tried to rally around each other and keep pushing to find that first one.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t find the second one with the opportunities we had,” he said.
Both sides made good on their chance to rally the Stafford community. “Futbol for Finn” was months in the making, the brainchild of Spinelli.
The Free Lance–Star has chronicled Finn Blumenthal’s journey and that of his family for years. Born with a congenital heart defect, Finn, 3, has already undergone two extensive surgeries. Spinelli, formerly a next-door neighbor to the Blumenthals, organized Friday’s events.
Attendance to the match was free, but donations were accepted for the Kolbe Fund, an organization that provides travel accommodations for families “who must travel to obtain the best medical care for a child,” according to a brochure.
Both teams wore special jerseys: Finn, carried onto the field by Eagles’ midfielder Christian Reyes during pre-match introductions, wore No. 37—signifying how many minutes it took a surgeon to repair his heart.
Late in the game, the announcer reported to raucous applause that more than $4,000 had been collected for the cause.
When it was over, Finn, brother Mason, 4, and their father Michael Blumenthal booted a soccer ball across the empty field, reluctant to relinquish an evening that epitomized the ongoing support of a family in need.
“Without that, we couldn’t have gone through what we’ve gone through,” Michael Blumenthal said. “We’re just fortunate.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW 1, COLONIAL FORGE 0
For as long as she can remember, Ruby Darling has yearned to play high school soccer.
“Everyone always says it’s the most fun,” the Wildcats freshman said.
Until recently, though, that fun was off limits. Darling’s obligations as a development academy player precluded her suiting up for the Wildcats. But after swapping to an Elite Clubs National League side with no such restrictions, Darling approached coach Fernando Ramos to ask if she could join the defending Commonwealth District champions.
His answer? A resounding yes.
Since joining the Wildcats two matches into the season, Darling has emerged as a natural complement to reigning Free Lance–Star player of the year Megan Watts.
Midway through the first half on Friday, the two previewed the potency of their combination. Watts split a pair of Colonial Forge defenders and located Darling, who buried her shot inside the right post for the match’s only goal.
The Eagles (3–6–1) created a pristine opportunity just moments out of halftime, but Wildcats freshman goalkeeper Lacey Winkels charged off her line and redirected the ball wide.
Fighting both the wind and an uneven playing surface, the Wildcats (5–1–1) eschewed their typical possession-oriented game and instead relied on a cushioned defensive shape.
“We had to play out of our element,” Ramos said.
Darling, on the other hand, is only just starting to come into her own.
“I definitely wanted to play with the team and get the environment, and learn about the sport from this perspective,” she said of her new side. “The girls bring a really great skill level, and high intensity to every practice, every game. Really just a good urge to win.”