Coming off their first win of the season in which they potted four goals, the Gainesville Leopards’ offense dried up Friday, Jan. 8, against Denton Ryan.
Gainesville had its chances against the Raiders, but they went nearly the entire game without finding the back of the net.
Finally, in the waning minutes of the game, Gabriel Nevarez earned a penalty kick as he was fouled in the box by the Ryan goalkeeper.
Nevarez smashed home the only goal of the game to give the Leopards the 1-0 victory in the first game of their home tournament – the Red River Invitational.
“I thought we played well offensively, but we just missed too many key chances to put the game away and we made it more interesting than it should have been,” head coach Danny Franco said. “Overall, we possessed the ball and controlled the pace of the game. I don’t think they ever threatened us and I don’t think they even had a shot on us.”
Even though the Leopards escaped with the victory, Franco said his team wouldn’t have “deserved” the tie because of the amount of possession it had throughout the game.
“Soccer can be cruel where you dominate and shoot and shoot and shoot, but I’m glad we got the win,” Franco said. “We just have to be more decisive and put the game away.”
As far as how Nevarez earned his penalty kick, Franco said it was a good cross into the box and it led to chaos. He said soccer players get a bad rap for diving or faking, but he said earning penalty kicks is a part of the game.
While the offense struggled to convert, the defense shined and Franco said that was a result of limited errors.
“Every time they would try to send the long ball, we were there to win the first and the second ball,” Franco said. “We were able to slow their attack and we didn’t give them an opportunity to pressure us. We were able to keep the ball and keep them at bay. We were attacking and it wasn’t back and forth.”
Offensively, the Leopards couldn’t capitalize on their chances and Franco said his team played too much “hero ball.”
“We had some moments where we should have kept passing and moving the ball, but instead of making that extra pass, they would shoot and it wasn’t there,” Franco said. “We had many situations where we could put the game away, but we would try to do too much.”
Despite just coming up with the one goal, Franco said the score line didn’t reflect how dominant his team played.
“I thought Ryan defended well with numbers, but when they got the ball, they tried to make their forward run and it kind of depends on your players or your philosophy,” Franco said. “When you have the ball the majority of the time, it makes it hard for Ryan to get a rhythm going and they were just chasing us to try to get the ball back.”