By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
As the T.C. Williams and W.T. Woodson boys soccer teams returned to the field at Parker-Gray Stadium after halftime Monday afternoon, the sun disappeared behind black clouds and droplets of rain began to fall.
Tied at 1-1 and with thunderstorms rolling in, the Titans knew they had to get a second goal quickly, given the possibility that the game could be called off due to inclement weather.
The crucial intervention came just under five minutes after the restart, as senior midfielder Maverick Argueta headed a free kick towards the back post and found Jose Bonilla Sosa rushing goal-ward. The sophomore midfielder got off a header that looped over the advancing Cavaliers goalkeeper Eli Smolen and into the back of the net, putting T.C. up 2-1.
Then, less than 20 minutes later, the first clap of thunder forced both teams inside, with the developing storm forcing the game to be abandoned. Since the second half had begun, T.C. was credited with the 2-1 win, and improved to 11-1 overall on the season.
The win over a Patriot conference opponent also secured the Titans the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, and home-field advantage at least through the semifinals.
Sosa’s header marked his second goal of the game, after he put the home side up 1-0 after 15 minutes of play in the first half. He seized on a wayward backpass and a miscommunication between Smolen and a Woodson defender in the penalty area, then finished low to give the Titans the early lead.
“I felt good,” Sosa said after the game. “I was calm, and felt good scoring for the team to get the win.”
Not everything went the way of the home side in a first half in which the Cavaliers enjoyed the majority of the possession and played with a higher energy level. Coming in with a 3-1 record in conference play, the visitors lived up to their billing and equalized with just over five minutes before halftime on a Daniel Kang volley.
Titans head coach Peter Abed said he was a little perturbed by his team’s efforts in the first half.
“I think we shot ourselves in the foot and came out flat in the first half,” Abed said. “It’s been a little theme of ours we’ve got to correct because you can’t always just outplay teams; you’ve got to outwork teams. Two games, the West Potomac game [a 3-1 loss] and this, it didn’t happen, and Woodson took advantage.”
Abed said he and his assistants have emphasized to the players that even if they are not having a good day on the field, they should keep the work-rate up and do everything possible to try and earn the win.
“I think that’s the hallmark of a good team: that you win when you don’t have your best day,” he said. “That’s something we always preach and we always want them to have that mentality of: Even if we’re not playing our best, we can at least work our absolute hardest… I think in this case it was just a case of picking up the energy level a little bit. When they did in the second half, you saw a much better flow of the game, more chances created, more diversity on offense and we finally got the goal we wanted.”
Things looked better for T.C. in the second half, led by an enterprising senior trio of Argueta, Reuben Bosompem and Kevin Nunez. On several occasions, a through-ball from one player to another split the Woodson defense, with a strong understanding of each other’s games shining through.
“We always have a bond, we’ve been playing for a long time,” said Bosompem. “We have a really great chemistry with the help of Maverick, we are a really great force. We like to execute and play with each other, and that’s what we went out to do. We went and did what we were supposed to do.”
“I always tell them, if you see Maverick picking his head up, you’d better start running because he’s going to find you with a pass,” Abed said. “I think that’s one of the reasons
we’ve been so successful this year, as those three guys have been on another level in some matches.”
The Titans have three games remaining in the regular season, beginning Wednesday after the Times’ print deadline away against West Springfield. Abed said playing teams of the caliber found in the Patriot conference is the ideal preparation for the postseason, especially as T.C. looks to go deep and possibly emulate the 2014 state champion team’s achievements.
“We always do really well in regionals because we’re battle-tested from this district, and you go and play other teams that maybe don’t have as much competition and are not used to a real fight,” he said. “I think you can always improve, we’re always looking to improve ourselves as a team. There’s always something you can build on, always something you can improve on. The second you think you’ve made it to the top is when you get knocked off.”