BAR HARBOR — To the naked eye, the attacking threats seemed to come out of nowhere; to the Mount Desert Island boys’ soccer team, they were the natural products of inch-perfect execution.
From the opening kick of last Wednesday’s game against Ellsworth, MDI had its hands full in the bitter cold against its No. 1 rival. Flipping offside traps, attacking down the wings and sending extra players forward to pursue scoring opportunities, the Eagles threw everything they had at the Trojans for 80 minutes.
Each of those factors could have posed a number of potential problems for MDI. Instead, the Trojans were composed and calculated as they capitalized at both ends of the pitch to add another chapter to a promising 2019 campaign.
MDI rode a series of strong counterattacks and well-timed runs Wednesday to a 3-0 victory over Ellsworth at Del Luce Stadium. The win stretched the Trojans’ unbeaten run to five games and kept the team near the top of the standings with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season.
“We’ve talked all season about focusing on playing our game and playing MDI soccer,” MDI head coach Tyler Frank said. “For us, that means keeping possession and staying within our system to do what we need to do to win.”
Although MDI opened the game with a handful of scoring chances, the Trojans were unable to take advantage of their successful runs past the Eagles’ offside traps. The Trojans registered two shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes, but Ellsworth goalkeeper Mason Tupper stopped the first with diving save in the bottom-right corner and the second with a parry in the center of the goal.
MDI’s persistence soon paid dividends, though, as Ieuan Howell slipped behind the Ellsworth defense, sprinted inside the 6-yard box and lifted the ball over Tupper to put the visitors ahead with 23 minutes, 41 seconds left in the half. Shane Bonilla came close to providing the second goal for the Trojans 10 minutes later, but the senior’s long-range volley instead struck the post after tailing away at the last possible second.
In the second half, Ellsworth (2-6-1) put MDI on the back foot right away with two scoring chances in the opening five minutes. The Eagles came even closer 10 minutes into the half as Tulas Weaver sent a powerful strike from a difficult angle mere inches wide of the woodwork.
“[Ellsworth] definitely came out strong in the second half and challenged us,” Frank said. “They had a few good chances and put us in a spot where we had to weather the storm.”
Weather the storm the Trojans did. After surviving another Ellsworth scoring chance, MDI (5-1) launched a rapid counterattack that resulted in a Treyan Nelson goal with 22:25 left to play. Five minutes later, Trevor Morrison scored via an assist from Walker St. Germain to make the score 3-0 and put the game out of the home team’s reach.
“Once I beat the defender, I knew I just had to put it in the right spot to beat [the goalkeeper],” Morrison said. “I just pulled my pace out and made a one-touch finish.”
The game was the sixth for MDI in a difficult seven-game stretch that’s also pitted the Trojans against Brewer, John Bapst, Caribou and George Stevens Academy. Since losing 3-0 to Brewer on Sept. 17, MDI has conceded just two goals in five games.
Making the right runs forward wasn’t always a seamless endeavor for MDI, which found itself caught offside a number of times in attempts to launch counterattacks and beat Ellsworth’s traps. Yet in the grand scheme of the game, the strategy produced the goals
the Trojans needed to earn the win.
“We realized they were going to play a flat four, and flat fours are beatable, especially when they stack their midfielders on top of that a little bit,” Frank said. “You just have to calibrate your runs and your passes, and if they don’t adjust, you’ve got a chance on goal.”
The loss was a tough one for an Ellsworth team that is still dealing with the losses of two veteran starters, Javen Clarke and Pedro Little-Siebold. Yet the fight the Eagles showed against one of Class B’s top teams was a positive for coach Paul Lock, whose team is still in position for a spot in the regional playoffs.
“I can’t be anything but proud of them,” Lock said. “To lose so many people during the year and have players be willing to step in and play other positions, it’s an inspiring thing to see.”
Ellsworth’s next game will be on the road against Caribou (7-0-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. The Eagles will host Presque Isle at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 9, before playing on the road against Maine Central Institute at 11 a.m. next Saturday, Oct. 12.
As for MDI, the Trojans will host Brewer (2-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, before playing road games against Old Town (4 p.m. next Wednesday) and Hermon (6 p.m. Oct. 15). Wins in those contests would improve the Trojans’ chances of securing a top-four seed and first-round bye in the Northern Maine playoffs.
“The chemistry we have this year is unreal,” Morrison said. “I’ve been waiting for this for three years to play with this group of boys. Everyone is putting in the hardest work, and it’s paying off.”