Quince Orchard’s offense is capable of clicking for intricate team goals, but Coach Kevin Gnatiko is not so hard to please. His boys’ soccer team recognizes the road to success does not have to be pleasant on the eyes.
On Monday night in Rockville, No. 5 Quince Orchard scored ugly to bury Magruder before halftime. The Cougars took advantage of defensive indecision and a few fortuitous bounces for a 5-1 win.
“We put balls in the back of the net any way we can,” senior forward Eli Holmstead said. “Doesn’t really matter how we manage to do it. As forwards we just want to get loose and score goals.”
After an uneventful opening 10 minutes, Quince Orchard (9-1) took advantage of defensive lapses to score three goals in a 10-minute span. First, winger Everest Longa sprinted after a lazy back pass and blocked a clearance by Magruder goalkeeper J.C. Cortez. The ball hit the turf and spun right to Longa, who finished on an empty net.
Five minutes later, Holmstead ran past a pair of Magruder defenders to reach a bouncing through-ball and double the Cougars’ lead. Midway through the first half, Magruder’s defense knocked the ball away from Longa and right to Holmstead, whose low finish from 10 yards out gave Quince Orchard a 3-0 lead at the break.
“We don’t sleep on anybody. We go all the way hard. If we go easy and give teams time, they can beat us,” Longa said. “Up front, we do anything and everything we can to put pressure on them.”
At halftime of the Colonels’ senior night, Magruder Coach Juan Gomez implored his team to stop turning and playing the ball back toward its own goal. The Colonels (8-3) responded with more positive possession in the second half. After a long passing spell, junior Marcos Valladares slid a pass across the box to Herber Cruz. The junior finished one-on-one to give the Colonels some life with 28 minutes remaining.
“They knew how to move the ball and play balls over the top and get behind our defense, but coming back from that start is pretty good,” Magruder senior defender Nick Ratra said. “We have to play smarter and learn from mistakes. Instead of just knocking each other down, we have to help each other change what’s not working.”
With 20 minutes remaining, a Quince Orchard player slid into a Magruder player and ignited a scuffle. Each player received a red card, and moments later, Holmstead took advantage of the extra space to break away and complete his hat trick with a well-placed chip toward the back post.
“When you take two players out, it opens the game up. When you’re the lone forward, you can just play off the last defender and chase down through balls,” Holmstead said.
Holmstead leads the area with 18 goals. Senior Alex Martinez capped the Cougars’ scoring with a penalty kick in the final minute as Quince Orchard won its seventh straight game.