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Boys soccer: Tough defense, counterattacks help Pleasantville get past Middle Township 2-0

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher PLEASANTVILLE — Playmakers make plays, given the chance. Carlos Mancia and Derlin Jimenez didn’t have many opportunities to make plays in the first half against Middle Township on Thursday afternoon, but when they got chances in the second half, they made the Panthers pay. The Greyhounds and Panthers — two of the top teams in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference, who finished first and second last season, respectively — battled to a scoreless tie through the first 40 minutes. But early in the second half, Mancia broke through, making a nifty move on a defender near the sideline before dribbling back toward the middle and getting around another defender before tucking a shot into the lower right corner to give host Pleasantville a 1-0 lead. Later in the half Jimenez, one of the most dynamic scorers in the conference, added an insurance goal by blasting a free kick into the back of the net from 35 yards out as the Greyhounds scored a key 2-0, early season win over their rival. “It was a good win, but there is still a lot to come. We still have a lot of games to play. This is step No. 1,” said senior goalie Alexis Olivera. Pleasantville goalie Alexis Olivera comes off the line to challenge a shot during the Greyhounds' 2-0 win over Middle Township on Thursday. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Pleasantville goalie Alexis Olivera comes off the line to challenge a shot during the Greyhounds’ 2-0 win over Middle Township on Thursday. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Middle Township had the advantage in the first half, trying to play the ball in to midfielder Joe Fala, who had a distinct height advantage over most of the Pleasantville players. But Greyhounds coach Mark Eykyn put his best — and tallest — defender, Jorge Flores, on Fala the entire game, and the rest of the defense did some nice work in front of Olivera. Still, Olivera had to make some difficult saves in the second half to record the clean sheet. “It feels really good. We worked hard, everybody was running back and we tried to do our best to play a lot of defense because they are a really good team,” Flores said. “They have that big guy, Fala, and coach told me to mark him. He told me to stay on him at all times, and that’s what I did.” Pleasantville (3-1) chose to pack their defense in and use counterattacks to spark their offense, a plan that didn’t work until the second half. Mancia took a pass down the right sideline, thwarted the first challenge from a Middle Township defender, flicked the ball toward the goal, then put a move on another defender before ripping a shot past a diving Nik Anagnou to put the Greyhounds in front 1-0. “That was a nice play. He’s always doing that in practice,” Olivera said of Mancia’s goal. “He’s always practicing those moves in practice, and today it turned out just like he does it in practice.” Carlos Mancia scored the game's first goal, early in the second half, to help Pleasantville to its third straight win. Carlos Mancia scored the game’s first goal, early in the second half, to help Pleasantville to its third straight win. Middle (2-1) kept up the pressure after falling behind, and nearly evened the score on several occasions but were either unlucky or the victims of some solid defense and goalkeeping by Pleasantville. Jimenez put the game out of reach with less than 15 minutes left by drilling a free kick into the upper left corner of the net. The win was big for Pleasantville. Not only were the Greyhounds knocked out of the playoffs last season by Middle Township, but the win was their third straight since a 5-0 loss to Atlantic City in the season opener. Greyhounds players said that lopsided loss to the Vikings was a wake-up call. “It feels like we have come a long way. If we were to play Atlantic City again at this moment, I feel like we would do a better job, but that’s in the past and we have to keep thinking about the future and keep playing like this,” Olivera said. “We have to keep this momentum up throughout the season.” “Playing good teams like Atlantic City and Middle Township, we learn something. Against Atlantic City, we didn’t play together. We were arguing with each other and we didn’t play well. But we just kept practicing and trying to get everything together, and stay together,” Flores said. “This is a big win. It’s early in the season, but we’re going to play them again. They’ll probably get better and we’ll probably get better.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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