By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The rubber match will decide which Traverse City soccer team bounces into the district finals.
After a 2-0 Division 1 district-opening victory over Alpena on Monday at the Coast Guard Soccer Complex, Traverse City Central will tangle with Traverse City West on the same field Wednesday in the semifinals.
“Wednesday, it’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” Trojans coach Rob Boynton said. “Lots of emotion. Big crowd, I’m sure. Lots of energy. It’s hard to imagine, but probably even more emotional than the earlier games (against West), because this could be the last one for some kids.”
TC West won the first meeting this season 1-0, but Central responded with a 3-0 triumph last week as both regular-season games have been a shutout one way or the other.
“First goal is important,” Boynton joked.
Wednesday’s contest starts at 7 p.m. — and the Trojans are hoping to take back-to-back playoff contests against the Titans (12-6-3).
“We’re feeling pretty good about it after last time,” Central senior forward Ryan Haworth said. “We beat them 3-0. We didn’t play as great as we should have the first time around, but they definitely did play better than us the first go-around. The second go-round, we definitely played one of the best games we’ve played this season. Hopefully, we play as well as we did last time.”
Haworth put Central up 1-0 on Alpena almost midway through the first half, converting a Jacob Muessig throw-in with a far-post shot.
“It was well-crossed from Jacob Muessig on the throw-in,” Haworth said. “I had enough time to trap it and get a shot off.”
The Trojans (13-8-2) went up 2-0 on an Elliot Russell goal in the 18th minute of the second half, as he finished off a long scrum in the box off a corner kick that was set up by Owen Stratton.
Both of Central’s goals came as a result of set plays — a Muessig throw-in and a corner kick.
“We work on those a lot,” Boynton said. “With Jacob having a throw like that, there aren’t a lot of teams that have someone that can throw that well, that far, that consistently. It’s really important we try to get something out of it. Anything from 30 yards in, we play like a corner. It’s a great weapon to have. It’s really amazing how he does it.”
The Trojans topped the Wildcats 2-0 and 3-0 during the regular-season and end the year without giving Alpena (8-12-1) a goal in three contests.
“Our back four did a really good job — and Carl (Gardner),” Boynton said. “We gave up one shot on goal all game, which is pretty good for 80 minutes. It speaks to their organization and their willingness to step up to the ball far away from the goal and not let it get down towards Carl. And Carl doing a good job of organizing his defenders and midfielders and keeping the ball away from (Alpena).”
Central outshot the Wildcats 14-1. Gardner had one save, while his counterpart — Gray Martin — had a dozen.
“We definitely controlled the pace of the game,” Haworth said. “Fourteen to one in shots was definitely in favor of us. We definitely should have had more in.”