Every time the sideline official raised his hand and blew his whistle to signal offsides in High Point's match Tuesday against Northwestern, the frustration on the Eagles' bench (and in the stands) grew.
At first it was a minor annoyance, but displeasure quickly mounted. Seemingly every ball High Point's defenders and midfielders attempted to play forward was met with a stoppage of play.
“It was getting kind of frustrating because every time we sent the ball to our forwards, they were offsides,” High Point captain Oscar Ventura said. “But then we started capitalizing on the chances that weren't offsides.”
And when that happened … “We scored,” Ventura said.
Northwestern's excellent offsides trap defense caught High Point an astounding nine times, but a crucial own goal and Urich Ndip's breakaway tally a minute later helped provide enough cushion for the Eagles to come away with a 2-0 victory in a battle between Prince George's County boys' soccer rivals. The win pushed High Point to 3-1-0 this season while Northwestern, last year's 4A South Region champions, dropped to 1-2-0.
“We lost to them twice last year. I actually thought we were a bit unlucky, but that was the way it went,” High Point coach Michael Holt said. “A lot of the guys are still here, so they remember that game. We had that in mind.”
The Eagles controlled play for a majority of the first half as both teams were sloppy early. Eagles forward Alejandro Avelar hit the post his the 21st minute and five minutes later midfielder Elmer Funes was denied by Northwestern goalkeeper Olvin Danery, who slid to strip Funes of the ball well outside the box.
Despite out-possessing Northwestern and garnering the majority of first-half chances, the Wildcats began the second half the aggressors. It appeared as though they might be on the verge of beating High Point three straight matches, but a turn of fates in the 63rd minute undid that momentum.
High Point midfielder Filemon Teklu sent a ball into the box from the right wing that approached the near post. Northwestern defender Adam Diabagate attempted to clear the ball beyond the end line, but ended up sending it by Danery and into his own net to give High Point a 1-0 lead.
“Everything just deflated from that point,” Wildcats coach Nigel Trim said. “It's inexperience and new players being in that moment of, 'How do you handle getting scored on?' If we could have just kept it 0-0 and tried to tuck one in, it would have been a different result. Unfortunately, that own goal deflated the team.”
If the own goal deflated Northwestern, Ndip's goal crushed them. One minute after the gaffe, High Point's physical forward ran onto a long ball from the back and — this time onside — sidestepped Danery and touched it into the net for his first of the year.
“I had to keep my composure and just be patient and wait until they sent me in for my chance,” Ndip said. “It was really tough. They came hard at us in the beginning. The second half, we had to just keep playing the way we were playing and hope we got that chance. And we did.”
High Point 2, Northwestern 0
Northwestern (1-2) 0 0 – 0
High Point (3-1) 0 2 – 2
High Point – Urich Ndip, 64'
Northwestern – Adam Diabagate, 63' (own goal)