As the players on Rockville High School’s boys’ soccer team jogged toward the home bleachers clapping their hands above their heads to salute their supporters, the joy was evident not only on their faces, but on the faces of the parents and fans in attendance.
One mother made sure to snap a photo of the scoreboard, illuminating the Rams’ 1-0 victory Thursday against Poolesville, while the public address announcer let everyone know the team would soon be enjoying a celebratory dinner at Chick-Fil-A.
Winning hasn’t happened often recently at Rockville, but for first-year coach Julio Zarate and his club, the turnaround from an historically bad season last year is evident.
In 2012, the Rams not only didn’t win a match, they didn’t score a goal.
And while Rockville (2-9-0) snapped its losing streak with a 2-0 victory against Seneca Valley earlier this season, the Rams did so on the strength of two own goals. Thursday night’s result, though? This one they earned.
“The kids are doing well. I said at the beginning of the year I’d be happy if we scored a goal and now we have two victories. It’s more than I expected,” Zarate said with a smile.
Junior Joao Lopes scored the game’s lone goal in the 48th minute. After being played into the final third by Alexander Nagy, Lopes found himself with time and space. He nutmegged a defender before ripping a shot from just outside the area that beat Poolesville’s goalkeeper to the far post.
“Since I’m right-footed, I wanted to get that far-post shot across the goalie and bounce it over his hand,” Lopes said. “I did it for my team.”
After a fairly uneventful first half — and a very eventual halftime show by Rockville’s marching band — the Rams were the aggressors coming out of the break. Following Lopes’ goal, however, Poolesville had the run of play. Constant pressure by the Falcons (2-7-0) forced junior goalkeeper Ben Glod to command his area well, which he did. Glod corralled nearly every cross sent into the box and extinguished the few attempts generated by Poolesville forward Xavier Benjamin.
“We’ve been working hard on trying to get the ball into the net,” Poolesville coach Christos Nicholas said. “One of our best strengths is that we have a pool of talent that can control the ball very well in the middle, but we’ve been working hard on finishing. Still, I’m confident that my team is very strong and I know my team will do very well in the postseason.”
The Falcons’ best chance of the match, by far, came in the 66th minute when the official whistled Rockville for a backpass to Glod a mere 7 yards from the goal. By rule, Poolesville was awarded an indirect free kick, allowing the Rams to create a massive wall along the goal line. Falcons junior Brain Galfond blasted a shot toward the net that deflected off Rockville defender Ronnie Herrera and out of harm’s way.
“I said, ‘Get on the line, I’m going to run in and try to distract [Galfond], try to make him take a bad shot and you guys block the goal.’” Glod said. “When they’re that close, you can’t really do much else.”
The strategy worked and after surviving a few more scares late in the second half, the Rams and their fans had every reason to celebrate on a memorable senior night in Rockville.
“It was special for them,” Zarate said. “They did very well.”
Rockville 1, Poolesville 0
Poolesville (2-7-0) 0 0 — 0
Rockville (2-9-0) 0 1 — 1
Rockville — Joao Lopes, 48’