Hall hosted Avon on Thursday night in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Despite playing 60 of the game’s 80 minutes down a man, the Hall Titans boys soccer team rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Avon 3-1 on Thursday night.
Hall lost Fareed Abu Rabia to a straight red card in the 20th minute. As if that was not bad enough, Avon converted on the ensuing free kick off the foul to take the lead. “He will learn from it,” said Hall coach Zeke Seguro of the mistake Abu Rabia made.
On the play, Hall had a corner kick that was cleared to midfield. Abu Rabia and Avon’s Braden Gilbey were positioned for the ball as it took a high bounce. The Titan tried to step in front and cut the ball off from Gilbey but it bounced over both, and Gilbey turned and ran the ball down. Abu Rabia gave chase and eventually clipped Gilbey’s heel sending the senior sprawling just outside the Hall penalty box.
“He tried to win the ball but as the last defender you can’t take that risk,” Seguro said. Abu Rabia had been shifted back from midfield to help shore up the defense.
Hall scrambled to form a wall as Gilbey stepped up to the free kick from 20 yards out. His shot went through the wall and slid into the lower right-hand corner of the net to give the Falcons the 1-0 lead.
The host Titans came out strong in the second half and just 10 minutes in nearly evened things when John Hunt slid a ball across the face of the Avon goal, but no one could get a boot on it. Five minutes later it was Hunt again with the high shot from distance that goalie Buster Akers managed to knock down and then push wide just ahead of a Hall striker looking for the rebound.
Despite being down a man, Hall had the better of play in the final 40 minutes. Repeated thrusts forward by Tommy Nash, Hunt, Shawn Middleton, Diego Lemes DeSouza, and Luis Bravo finally paid off with 23:33 to play. Nash, coming up from the backline, let a long shot go that deflected off the foot of an Avon player and slid into the corner of the net to tie things.
Two minutes later Avon nearly re-took the lead when Trevor Moretti took possession of the ball just inside the 18-yard box. He pushed the ball right around a defender and then a second defender before rifling a shot that went just wide of the Hall net.
From there, Hall created a pair of five-star plays that resulted in the game’s final two tallies. First it was Nash, again racing down the right sideline and delivering a beautiful centering pass to Middleton as he cut into the box. Middleton then backheeled the ball onto the foot of the onrushing Lemes De Souza who made no mistake and drove home the go-ahead goal.
“They do grind,” said Seguro of his players. “They showed a lot of character.”
Three minutes later came one of the prettiest goals off another hustle play by Hunt. With the ball on the left side, he ran into the box looking for a cross. As the ball came in, he stayed back, let it clear over players in front of him, then rose in the air to direct a perfect header into the corner of the net.
“Obviously we’ve been struggling to score goals,” Seguro said after the game. “To come back and put three in while a man down, hopefully it gives us confidence going forward.”
Entering Thursday’s game Hall had won four games by a 1-0 score, were shut out once, and had a scoreless tie. “Some of these guys are taking the lead. Hunt, Luis (Bravo), Pat (Liddell), Nash. It is a process,” the Hall head coach said of his club. “We are still far from where we need to be, but I always want us to just get better each day.”
Thursday’s game also marked the return of senior Jack Deloreto – who played his first game of the season in the Avon contest. “Getting Jack back gives me more options,” said Seguro.
Next up for the Titans is a trip to South Windsor to meet the unbeaten (2-0-3) Bobcats on Tuesday.
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