TAMPA -The No.9 Tampa Spartans did close to everything right against Johnson and Wales.
They dominated possession, held the Wildcats to just two shots, neither of which tested Clete Goddard in the Tampa net, and on another night would have seen more of their 30 shots find the back of the net to record just as lopsided a win as many opponents have against the Wildcats this season.
But on Monday night at Pepin-Rood Stadium, the Spartans left their goal-scoring boots back in the locker room as a late first half penalty and early second half fluke were the only goals in a 2-0 victory.
Not that Spartans coach Adrian Bush was overly perturbed by the way the game played out.
“It’s soccer,” Bush said. “I was happy that a lot of our guys got quality minutes tonight. We did what we had to do to come in here with a win, stayed healthy, no cards, and we did exactly that.”
All that was the case, only Goddard, Dan Bergstrand and Matt Noble played the full 90 minutes for the Spartans as 26 players saw action, but the Spartans could, and probably should, have had more success in front of goal. The Wildcats used their offside trap to great effect, catching the Spartans seven times in each half, and even when the Spartans beat it, either Wildcats goalkeeper Sky Brisco was on hand to save, making nine overall, or the opportunity was squandered.
It wasn’t until the 44th minute that the Spartans broke the deadlock when Hamza El Haouati picked up the ball on the left, beat his defender and was brought down just inside the left edge of the penalty area. Dominic Goncalves stepped up and fired his shot low into the left corner of the net to convert the spot kick.
Tampa doubled its lead six minutes after the break when Matt Davies picked the ball up 45 yards from goal on the right. Looking to send an angled ball into the penalty area, Davies sent the ball long, but instead of being met by a Spartan head, it floated over Brisco’s head and into the left corner of the goal.
The Spartans will hope to be sharper on Thursday night when they host Saint Leo. A victory would give Tampa at least a share of the Sunshine State Conference regular season title, as it currently sits tied with Rollins on 18 points.
“Thursday’s about work rate,” Bush said. “That’s really what it comes down to anytime. It’s a battle with Saint Leo, it’s about the effort and the work rate, and I think the team that is the hardest-working team on Thursday is the one that’s going to come out on top.”