The Mineola Yellowjackets soccer team continued its winning ways with a 2-1 victory March 5 against the visiting Cumberland Academy Knights. Mineola made great use of the few offensive opportunities they generated, and held off significant Cumberland pressure throughout the night.
The first half was dominated by the Knights. Cumberland seemed to excel in the midfield and was adept at placing their passes just over the next Mineola line of defense.
The opening minutes of play saw two excellent scoring chances for Cumberland. The first was a low shot that Mineola goalkeeper Spencer Rhodes easily handled. The second was a rifle shot that forced Rhodes to make a spectacular save. The goalkeeper elevated and got just enough of his hand on the ball to push it above the crossbar.
It wasn’t until the 20-minute mark that the Yellowjackets got a shot on goal. Following a Cumberland turnover, Liberio Perez put a low hard shot on goal which was saved by the Cumberland goalkeeper.
The Knights opened the score on a penalty kick in the 26th minute of play. Advancing up the left wing and cutting into the box, a Cumberland forward was sandwiched between Yellowjacket defenders Gustavo Sanchez and Omar Camacho. The referee awarded a penalty kick with no hesitation. An excellent penalty shot beat Rhodes low and to his right.
The majority of play in the first half was in the midfield and Cumberland offensive half. The Knights were winning the scramble for ball possession and were putting together significant passing combinations. The Yellowjackets could not find their rhythm and appeared hesitant to defend the pitch.
Mineola began to contest the midfield in the second half, and their aggressiveness increased significantly. Passes forward from the midfield became better placed and more frequent. Mineola began to threaten.
In the 52nd minute, Mineola attacker Alex Rojas streaked down the left side and was brought down as he entered the box. The referee whistled a kick from the penalty spot. Rojas dispatched the kick with authority, and tied the score.
With the game tied, each side played with more hunger. On a frigid night, there was no end-to-end action, but there were spurts of productivity from each side. Cumberland had two great chances to take the lead. In the 62nd minute they put a wide-open look at goal far over the crossbar, and a minute later Cumberland put the ball in front of goal where it was batted about until finally cleared by the Mineola defense.
It was the kind of night when a mistake, or lucky break, might decide the game.
That break came in the 68th minute. Cumberland was taking a goal kick to restart play. The defender’s goal kick was mis-hit and ended up in Mineola’s possession 30 yards from the goal. Rojas took a quick pass at the top of the box and fired a rocket into the back of the net. It happened in a flash, and Mineola had taken the lead.
Each side had chances in the remaining minutes, but the 2-1 score stood. The Yellowjackets are now 9-2 in district play, and in a battle with Mabank, Chapel Hill and Athens for the district lead. Mineola travelled to Chapel Hill Friday March 8, hosts Mabank March 19, and closes district play with an away game at Kemp on March 22.