Article by Sebastian Montes; photos by Andrew Jones.
Three rainouts in their first three games: Champing at the bit to pick up from their playoff run last year, Watkins Mill boys' soccer finally got their 2011 campaign underway Monday night with a dominating 2-0 win at Quince Orchard.
The anxiety of their long wait showed in the first half in a string of near misses in front of the Cougars' goal. Senior striker William Yougnia whizzed a shot just wide of the left post, hit the same post a few minutes later, and had another try in close turned back by a quick reaction from Cougar keeper Christian Ross. But Yougnia—one of the Montgomery County’s elite sprinters—netted the Wolverines' first goal of the season when he collected the ball with his back to the goal six minutes into the game, made a decisive turn and slotted his shot inside the far post.
Watkins Mill quickly found their rhythm through the midfield at the capable feet of Patrick Pato, Oscar Carcamo and Obed Agyei, who dominated possession and kept Quince Orchard from finding more than an occasional crack in the defense.
The Cougars mounted a few threats at the end of the first half, nearly netting the equalizer on a header that caromed off the post with five minutes left. More often than not, though, the Wolverines’ defense quashed Cougar forays before they could manifest.
With last year’s back line gone, Watkins Mill’s defense stands as this season's biggest question mark. After Monday night's clean sheet, Coach Jeff Heckert gave a big nod to junior Sergio Mosquera—who took on the challenge of switching from the midfield—and freshman Kedin Rodriguez.
"Sergio stepped up and said, ‘Coach, I want to do it.’ … And it was Kedin’s first varsity game; he played very physical. He plays hard, he doesn’t play like a freshman," Heckert said. "It’s a very inexperienced group in the back, but they’re learning quick."
The Wolverines' second score came midway into the second half on a gorgeous build-up that started at the mid-line. Pato brought the ball up the left flank, pulled it across the middle and fed Ariel Rodriguez on an overlapping run. Rodriguez ran a quick give-and-go that put him into the right corner. He turned, roped a cross into the box, and a streaking Angel Barrios buried a header into the back of the net.
"Angel came flying in and really attacked that ball the way you need to attack it," Heckert said. "We were hungry on that goal."
Coming off last year’s run that ended against Linganore in the 3A West region final, this year’s squad is poised to post an even better result. They bring back a slew of experience that includes five starting seniors, who have had at least one playoff win in their first three years. Pato was first team all-state last year, and Agyei, Carcamo, Yougnia and Mosquera know each other’s games well.
"The sky's the limit with this group," Heckert said. "… They listen well to each other. It starts with the leadership. They’re a focused, hungry group. We know we have to be playing our best soccer in October, when it really starts to count. Our mentality is that we just have to take it one game at a time, because there’s a lot of talent in this county and we’re not going to creep up on people anymore."
Monday night still brought some loose play, which Heckert attributed to a lack of time on the field and a determined performance by Quince Orchard, who disrupted many of Watkins Mill’s exchanges in the attacking third.
"We were unlucky not to get a few more, but you have to credit them; they really did a nice job defensively on us," Heckert said. "A lot of that is just first game of the year. We were just anxious to get a game, you know? We’ve had three straight rainouts. We haven’t really played anything organized since Aug. 27."
If Monday night’s win proved relatively worry-free, the Wolverines are expecting a much harder go over the next three games, starting with their home opener against Churchill (2-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday, a road game against all-sport rival Clarksburg (1-1) at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed at home at 7 p.m. Monday against defending state champ Magruder.
"That’s a tough stretch; we’ll find out in eight days how we match up," Heckert said.