By Jeremy Arzuaga
Goals by Charleston juniors Aly Abou-Zaid and Eugene Ohba late in the second half game proved to be crucial in the Trojans’ 3-2 victory Tuesday night at Trojan Hill.
Charleston appeared at times to get comfortable with several leads, but the Trojans eventually held on thanks to the late goals and the effort of goalkeeper Ben Tresslar.
The Charleston Trojans (4-3 overall, 1-0 in the Apollo Conference) came out aggressively at the start, striking in the first minute when Blake Garrett drilled a shot from just beyond the 18-line, crossing it from the right side into the upper left side of the goal.
The Trojans, though, struggled to score again in the first half, in part because of imprecise passing and miscommunication.
Lincoln was able to tie the score with 19 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half when Payton Lanning broke past Trojans defenders as a defender tried to head the ball away from goal. As Lanning raced in, a Charleston defender reacted by inadvertently sending the ball in the net, lofting it over Tresslar’s head.
“Our center back Kevin was running back there and [the ball] took a crazy hop up and he (his teammate) tried to get it off, went off his knee and into the goal,” Tresslar said. “It was a lucky shot.”
Lanning pressed the Charleston defense several times, but his teammates failed to create opportunities that generated more scoring in the opening half.
“Some games, we finish better than others, but tonight we didn’t put many on frame that I would’ve liked,” said Lincoln coach Tim Stuckey. “When defense is good, that will happen to you.”
The Trojans played a much cleaner second half, dominating on defense and offense alongside great play by Tresslar, who dived to stop a potential goal midway through the second half. He had six saves overall.
“We responded really well. We really kept our cool as our center back played a great job controlling everybody,” Tresslar said. “This was probably our best game of the year. We’re really happy with it.”
Abou-Zaid cut through several defenders and drilled in a goal about 15 minutes into the second half to put Charleston ahead 2-1
Five minutes later, Ohba converted for another CHS goal to pad the lead to two.
The Trojans were unable to convert on several other scoring opportunities in the second half, nor did they focus enough on making shorter passes. As a result, Charleston nearly let its two-goal lead slip away. Lanning took a long pass, cut past a defender and then fired in a goal to make it 3-2 with nearly 16:59 minutes remaining.
“I thought we played a lot better than we had been playing, to be honest,” said CHS coach Josh Garrett. “There are still some things we are not doing right. There’s still some miscommunications. Sometimes, we just stop talking.”
Although the Trojans struggled with communication and setting plays up throughout the game, Ohba’s late goal proved to be the difference-maker in a team that was poised to make a comeback.
“I was happy overall with how the kids played,” said Josh Garrett. “I thought they fought hard and improved on several things that we’ve been focusing on.”
The Trojans will travel to Mahomet to take on the Bulldogs on Thursday evening.