By Pilar Barrio-Sanchez
Gavin Gonzalez scored a goal, gave an assist and provoked a penalty in less than 30 minutes to help ignite a flurry of goals that lifted Mattoon past Lincoln, 7-0, to secure the Mattoon Invitational soccer tournament.
In the first half, MHS’s Mason Wright scored three goals and offered an assist with his header to Zach Diebel who finished it with his right foot. Shane Ghere and Andrew Brinkshroeder also scored.
Mattoon was superior in every aspect of the game. Both teams started the game in a 4-4-2 which indicated that the wingers would have to have mobility to create numerical superiority on top. That was exactly what Mattoon did: Gonzalez, who was playing in the left wing, created dangerous chances each time that he received the ball by committing players on the dribble and crossing balls into the box with his left foot, or cutting inside to shoot it with his right foot.
“It’s a lot of fun taking players one-on-one,” Gonzalez said, “and then bring them to the edge of the goal and create opportunities for my teammates to score.”
Mattoon (11-2-3) scored the opening goal six minutes into the game. Gonzalez served a long throw into the box that was received by Wright, who dribbled around a Lincoln defender before shooting it into the net. Ghere then scored off a pass from Trent Hettinger, beating a defender in the penalty box area.
On the other wing, Hettinger was getting to the second post every time to finish the crosses, and that is how he got the ball on an assist from midfielder Ghere who was on top of the box. Ghere also did a good job of attracting a lot of players when dribbling the ball forward to then release his teammates.
Then, Mattoon scored four goals in less than 10 minutes to make it 6-0.
In 16th minute, Ghere received the ball at the top box and sent it toward the goal. The shot was blocked by a Lincoln defender but Gonzalez took the rebound and scored to make it 3-0. Four minutes later, Wright assisted Diebel who scored the Green Wave’s fourth goal.
After four more minutes, Gonzalez started taking players on and provoked a penalty kick that was converted by Wright to make it 5-0. Only one minute later, Cooper Bergstrom crossed the ball into the box where Brinkshroeder finished with a perfect header to give Mattoon its fourth goal in 10 minutes and a 6-0 lead.
Wright scored his third goal to complete the hat trick with two minutes left in the first half, off an assist from Hettinger.
“They are physical and they are strong with the ball, and we knew that,” Lincoln coach Tim Stuckey said. “When we played them one month ago at our place, we tied 1-1, and they probably outshot us 12-2 that game. So we knew they were probably a little fired up that the last time they didn’t get the win. So they came out strong.”
The defensive work was also key for Mattoon, which was able to possess the ball for long stretches. The midfielders and the wingers were always attacking, which left three defenders to deal with any counter attack; however, they were organized and they didn’t concede any shots on goal.
In fact, the Green Wave allowed only one shot on goal during the tournament.
“Our defense played well together,” Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said, “and they did a really good job of covering each other. When someone stepped to the ball, we had guys dropped in and covered.”
Mattoon also showed superiority in the set pieces; they were generating dangerous opportunities from corner kicks. With three minutes left in the first half, Hettinger crossed the ball to the second post and Wright headed it into the goal.
“We struggled all year on set pieces,” said Ghere, “so to get two goals on set pieces, and we had one this morning as well, it’s something that we have worked on a lot and finally it paid off.”
Mattoon went undefeated in the tournament, defeating Olney, 4-0, earlier in the day after having topped Newton on Friday night, 1-0. Diebel scored twice in the morning game.
Mattoon next travels to play at Mahomet on Tuesday night.