Lions hand Rockies 2-0 shutout at Kindt Field

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth narrowly escaped Bremen’s offensive pressure in the first half to enter the break with a 0-0 stalemate.
After some halftime adjustments, the Rockies finally ran out of room when the Lions found the back of the net in the 50th minute, eventually handing their hosts a 2-0 defeat on the road at Kindt Field Tuesday.
“We kind of talked about how in the first half we hadn’t executed the game plan,” said Bremen boys soccer coach Mark Yoder. “This field’s just a little bit narrower than ours so we were kind of jamming everything down the middle, and they were figuring that out and defending well. So at halftime we just said let’s make the adjustment, let’s spray the ball out wide and play it back in and just hit it. We finally went to the outside and played it back in, and it worked. When we stick to our tactical plan, we’re really good.”
Sam Bickel scored on a Danny Reynoso cross from the wing in the 50th minute as the senior midfielder/ forward drove in a rocket at the near post to put Bremen on the board. Bickel put his name on the scoresheet again in the 67th minute with a free kick that Don Browning headed in from close range for an insurance goal that ultimately brought the score to its final margin.
“We had kind of given away a lot of free kicks in the first half, and then in the second half we were kind of just wasting free kicks — two in particular we could have had better chances on. I just told the guys at halftime ‘Let’s be way more dangerous with our free kicks’ and I yelled that to Sam beforehand, and he played an absolutely perfect ball and made the defense go back and made the keeper come forward,” said Yoder. “Don is just a fearless forward; he’s not afraid to stick his head in, and like a true poaching forward, just went up there, got his head in a dangerous area and slammed it home. He actually just got cleared from a concussion, we didn’t know if he was going to play. He was distraught as a senior, and then he came in and showed what his will was in this game, what his desire was to win.”
The Rockies gave up five corner kicks by Bremen in the first half and numerous free kicks near their 18-yard box throughout the game, and it finally came back to haunt them with Browning’s header. Those were the kinds of set pieces Plymouth coach Josh Martin said he was hoping his team could avoid Tuesday.
“Getting a little antsy on defense in the back, I don’t know who committed the foul,” he said. “We always talk about not giving up set pieces around the box, and they’ve got some real big kids. Lee went out for that ball, tried to get a punch on it and couldn’t get a hand on it. We get a bad bounce and they knock in an insurance goal. We kept pushing and pressuring, but a two-goal deficit is tough to overcome with two minutes left.”
Bremen almost broke through in the 28th minute with a near-goal off a Chris Gingerich corner into the box that turned into a hopper, but the score was called back by officials.
“I think it was just chaos in the box,” Yoder said. “I’m sure that a lot of guys were probably slamming into the referee, probably fouls all over the place. I’m sure that hands were hitting the ball in the melee. In a pileup like that, you’ve got to expect a call to be made.”
While Plymouth lost the game, the Rockies played fairly evenly with Bremen from a statistical standpoint.
Following a slow start that included some tense moments for the home team, Plymouth recovered and controlled possession for most of the first half. But Bremen’s attacking proved more precise in the end, and the Lions grabbed their fourth straight shutout victory.
“The first 10 minutes, they put a lot of pressure on us. They got a lot of really nice shots around the 18 that went just wide — I think (Zach) Lee had his hand on one of them — and had us kind of back on our heels for a minute,” said Martin. “Coming out slow has kind of been a problem for us this first part of the season. I feel like after the first 10 minutes we got collected and had a majority of the possession, had them back on their heels. I thought we kept control of the ball and ran the midfield for most of the game and did a pretty good job of getting down in some dangerous areas in the corners, putting some balls over the top of their defense to Cesar (Aguilar) and (Tim) Fonseca. We just didn’t get anything accurate and precise enough in front of the net where we could get some high quality shots.”
While the Lions logged their fourth straight shutout, Plymouth found itself unable to get on the scoreboard a third straight time, falling to 1-3-1 with its third loss in a row.
“I’m hoping that over the game Thursday and over Blueberry weekend we’ll get some more goals in some guys and kind of get that goal scoring momentum going,” said Martin. “Right now we just don’t have that. Cesar has kind of been that, but once a team really collapses in on him and pressures him it makes it hard. We’ve got to count on some other guys around him to get some opportunities in there.”
Bremen’s varsity got an emotional boost from its junior varsity squad Tuesday, as the JV Lions edged Plymouth 5-4 in a down-to-the-wire thriller prior to the Lions’ 2-0 varsity win, which pushed the squad to 4-0-1.
“Two great victories, I’ve got to give huge credit to the JV today,” Yoder said. “They pulled it out at the end, which just set the tone right away for our team. Guys who didn’t even get to play were up on their feet cheering, intense. That’s what a total team is, and that’s what I think we were tonight.”
Plymouth travels to Goshen for a Northern Lakes Conference game Thursday, while Bremen takes on NorthWood.
Both teams host tournaments over Labor Day weekend.
At Plymouth
Sam Bickel (Danny Reynoso), 50th minute
Don Browning (Bickel), 67th minute
Shots on goal: Plymouth 5, Bremen 7
Saves: Plymouth 5 (Zach Lee), Bremen 5 (Austin Adams)
Corners: Bremen 5, Plymouth 4
Records: Bremen 4-0-1, Plymouth 1-3-1
JV score: Bremen 5, Plymouth 4