TAUNTON, Mass. – A tough, grind it out league.
That’s how Taunton head coach Dave Purpura described the Hockomock, as the Tigers are still getting acclimated to their new home.
But they are learning quick, as they showed toughness and grinded out a 2-1 win over Kelley-Rex foe North Attleboro on Saturday morning.
“Nothing comes easy,” Purpura said.
After falling into a 1-0 hole in the 21’ minute, the Tigers responded six minutes later, when sophomore Nelson Roias’ header found the back of the net, knotting the game up. Then, with just 4:39 left in the game, Roias added his second goal, the go ahead score, and secured the win.
“You’re going to have to come back from early deficits, you’re going to have to be able to score goals and then finish games,” added Purpura.
The Red Rocketeers got on the board first as senior Taylor Christo gathered in a ball that had been knocked back in forth in the air. He took it down smoothly and ripped a low shot from just outside the top of the area. The ball was partially blocked by the defense, but it had enough power to squeeze under Taunton goalkeeper Mike Gleason’s grasp.
The Tigers responded quickly and in the 27’ minute, Mike Shaheen’s cross into the area found the head of Roias, who calmly placed it into the open net.
“Nelson’s an extremely talented player,” Purpura said. “He’s capable of finishing with his head, he’s tough on his feet, he’s tough in the open field, he’s creative.”
As the play continued throughout the rest of the first half and into the second, neither team built up too much of a rhythm and neither had any great scoring chances.
Defensively for Taunton, that was because of central defender Danny Belair. Belair covered plenty of ground, looked very calm controlling the defense, and limited North to very little chances.
“We’ve toyed with trying Danny in other parts of the field but the simple truth of the matter is that he’s a sweeper,” Purpura said. “He keeps us in every game.”
Belair showed why Purpura has tried him in different places besides defense, as late in the game, he set up the game winner.
Belair intercepted a pass around his own 18, carried the ball over half before using a quick give and go to find himself some space on the outside. His low cross found the feet of Roias, who chipped in the winner.
“If we can emphasize opportunities with late runs from guys in the back, we play possession style soccer that gives those guys opportunities, not just Danny but our outside backs,” Purpura added. “If we can get those guys forward, we’ll find some openings.”