Teamwork Sends Centennial Soaring To The Top

October 10, 1990|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff writer

On the supermarket shelf of soccer teams, the 1990 Centennial version is not a brand-name. It's purely a generic-type of squad, sometimes blandly packaged.

But the end product is still a good one. A little ballyhoo, glitz and star quality might help make it more exciting.

Centennial is a team that wins because the players suppress their individuality for the greater good of the team. It's a team that cannot afford much free-lancing.

"Yeah, we look the same all across the field," Eagles coach Bill Stara said. "We're very generic. But that's not bad as long as we play as a unit."

The team with no dominant player, but also with no real weak ones, ho-hummed its way to its sixth straight victory Saturday at Wilde Lake, 4-1.

It seems amazing that a team could be 6-0 after playing a powerhouse schedule, and not have some dominant, big-name players. But that's Centennial.

Four different Eagles scored against Wilde Lake. And in typical Centennial fashion, all four goals came indirectly or directly off of dead-ball situations.

Centennial is the best dead-ball team in the county this year, which usually is considered a back-handed compliment.

"It's not a negative to score off of dead balls," Stara said. "Teams don't give you dead balls unless they have to."

Against Wilde Lake, Centennial scored in the 20th minute when Roger Stott's throw-in slipped through goalie Jean-Pierre Petitjean's hands and then was booted in by Robert Blanco. Petitjean had made several outstanding saves earlier, but this mistake proved costly.

"It killed us," Wilde Lake coach Dave Nesbitt said.

Petitjean came back with another beautiful save a few minutes later.

But in the 38th minute, Centennial's Tam Lam kicked in a follow-up shot after Petitjean again lost the ball off his fingertips on a diving save attempt to his left. It was 2-0 and the victory seemed assured.

Centennial had allowed just two goals in its previous five games against some high quality opponents, including Severna Park, Calvert Hall, Walt Whitman, Mount St. Joe and Dulaney, with Calvert Hall scoring both of those goals. So it was unlikely that Wilde Lake could rally.

"We've taken great pride in our defense," Stara said. "Our goalie (John) Bratiotis and back line of (Austin) Groves, (Ted) Oh, (Stu) Amato and (Cullen) Meade have four shutouts."

Wilde Lake's two stars, Matt Nesbitt and Hamisi Amani-Dove, were pretty much shut down Saturday. Groves marked Nesbitt the entire game.

But after Groves' header from 5 feet out in the 43rd minute made it 3-0, Nesbitt did get Wilde Lake on the scoreboard.

A mis-kick by Meade on a clearing attempt at Wilde Lake's 40-yard line left Nesbitt alone with the ball, and he dribbled quickly into scoring position inside the 18-yard line, and banged it past the Eagles' on-rushing, back-up goalie, Mark Correire, in the 71st minute.

Wilde Lake actually dominated play for about a 12-minute period of the second half. And it missed four other good scoring chances, including a header by Nesbitt from the 10-yard line.

Chris Arcella booted a left-footer inside the far post in the 77th minute for Centennial, however, making the final 4-1 score look like a rout.

"Wilde Lake played well and controlled part of the game," Stara said. "We played an uninspiring game. We were listless and played individualistic. The players didn't talk to one another. We had no flow.

But we did what we had to do to win."

Stara didn't blame Meade's whiff entirely for setting up Wilde Lake's score: "We made three mistakes leading to that goal, and his (Meade's) was just one of them."

Centennial's midfield looked a bit weak at times against Wilde Lake, and Stara agreed that midfield has been somewhat of a problem.

"If we ever figure our our midfield puzzle, then we'll be a solid team from end to end," Stara said. "Right now we're strong at both ends."

Centennial was one of three county squads still undefeated as of Monday.

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