The struggle to score: Jets shut down Northeastern’s offense, advance to second round

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/18/21

SILER CITY — Many people claim Fort Knox is the most impenetrable place on earth. Northeastern might say it’s whatever goal Jordan-Matthews is defending.

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The struggle to score: Jets shut down Northeastern’s offense, advance to second round

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SILER CITY — Many people claim Fort Knox is the most impenetrable place on earth. Northeastern might say it’s whatever goal Jordan-Matthews is defending.

The Jets defeated the 12th-seeded Northeastern Eagles, 2-0, on the rain-soaked pitch at Jordan-Matthews on Tuesday to advance to the second round of the NCHSAA 2A men’s soccer playoffs.

The Eagles, traveling more than 212 miles for their first-round date with the Jets, ran into a defense playing at an unbelievably high level. And they simply weren’t ready for it.

Not only did Jordan-Matthews finish with its fourth clean sheet of the season — allowing zero goals — but it also held Northeastern to just three shots-on-goal all night, one greater than the number of total goals the Jets scored.

In an entire 80-minute game, the Eagles mustered just three shots — one in the first half, two in the second — and converted on none of them. To put it into perspective, they averaged one shot every 26 minutes of game time.

It’s nearly impossible to win if you aren’t able to put the ball in the direction of the net. You’d need a miracle to do so, which Northeastern simply didn’t have.

“I think I only counted two or three shots,” said Paul Cuadros, Jordan-Matthews’ head coach. “The old saying is, ‘A good offense is a good defense,’ so our offense definitely put them on their heels and took them out of their game in terms of their attack.”

In comparison, the Jets took around 26 shots on the night, averaging one every three minutes. A drastic difference between their offense and the Eagles’.

There were three main reasons why Jordan-Matthews was able to hold Northeastern to such a limited number of goal-scoring opportunities: offensive control, midfield dominance and superb goalkeeping.

Offensively, the Jets were on another level. They controlled the ball for most of the game and gave themselves a plethora of good looks to score, but Northeastern junior goalkeeper Cristian Wolfen was impressive, making save-after-save to prevent Jordan-Matthews from running up the score.

And if it wasn’t Wolfen making a save, it was either a teammate of his jumping in at the last second to block a shot or a Jordan-Matthews attempt sailing over the goal or ricocheting off the post.

“We had plenty of chances to go up 3-0, 4-0, we weren’t able to do that,” Cuadros said. “They had a great keeper. He saved them a few times, so I’ve got to give it up to them for that. ... Sometimes you can shoot, shoot, shoot and it just doesn’t go your way.”

In the first half, the Jets opened the scoring fairly quickly as Cristian Escobedo, Jordan-Matthews’ goal-scoring aficionado, received a fantastic centering pass from Alexis Ibarra — who fought off three defenders to the left side of the goal — and booted it to the right portion of the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Despite numerous opportunities, that was the only non-penalty kick goal the Jets scored all night.

Later in the half, in the 35th minute following a penalty on Northeastern, Zander Ocampo lined up for a penalty kick and sent it to the upper left corner for an easy goal, putting the Jets up 2-0 and wrapping up the scoring for the remainder of the contest.

From there, with Jordan-Matthews having a comfortable lead, it was the defense’s job to maintain that lead and solidify the win. And that they did.

The Jets made it nearly impossible for the Eagles to get within proximity of the goal.

There were many times where Northeastern would begin marching up the pitch with the ball and attempt to settle into its offense, but sloppy play and constant pressure from J-M’s midfielders would often result in an intercepted pass, a tackle that knocked the ball free or a battle for possession that the Jets would often win.

And if the Eagles got by the midfielders, it was the Jets’ defenders — including the tag-team of Cristian Cruz and Irvin Campos Cervantes — that would block attempted shots or do any of the aforementioned things to get them off of their game and cause them to lose possession.

In the rare moments when Northeastern fired off a shot, it was Jordan-Matthews goalkeeper Ricardo Rocha who saved the day, making a couple of great saves on an unpredictable, slippery ball to maintain the shutout.

That includes a free kick by the Eagles in the 55th minute that was rocketed to the upper right corner of the net by Rigoberto Molina, but Rocha barely got a hand on it and sent it flying above the goal.

“The last shot they had here on the upper right corner, that was a goal,” Cuadros said. “And Ricardo put a hand on it and that was an amazing save on his part because that should’ve been a goal.”

Jordan-Matthews’ defensive showcase provides another reason why this is a dangerous team moving forward. The number of shots the Jets take paired with their defense playing at a high level is a recipe for success. Some of those shots are bound to go in.

As has been par for the course this season — which Jordan-Matthews knows all too well — inclement weather is already affecting the playoffs.

The Jets’ second-round matchup at fourth-seeded Washington (12-0) was postponed on Thursday due to inclement weather and is now scheduled to be played on Friday.

Washington, an unbeaten team that’s scored 74 goals compared to its opponents’ 10, is going to be a tall task for Jordan-Matthews.

“This is a young team and for the juniors on this team who have gone up from J.V. to varsity this year, they’re feeling that intensity,” Cuadros said. “There are a lot of expectations on them. The community has expectations on them, I do too, and they want to fulfill them, so they have to get over those jitters. And I think they did that tonight, I think they realized tonight that they can hang with people.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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