Only five games into the soccer season, Henry Clay’s Jason Behler and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Todd Bretz had more questions than answers about their teams heading into a rematch of the last year’s 11th Region title game.
While the Blue Devils got the better of the Bulldogs then and went on to play for the state title, Dunbar got the better measure of the revamped contenders in a 1-0 home win Thursday night.
Dunbar sophomore forward Eddy Andrade tapped in the game-winner with 14:43 left in the second half on a quickly developing counterattack. Henry Clay lost the ball just outside Dunbar’s 18-yard box as the Bulldogs’ Sullivan Curd won possession and sprinted up the center of the field. He played a ball in front of Andrade on the right flank who turned and took in toward the box before passing it to Caleb Norris just outside Henry Clay’s 18. Norris took a big touch to split two defenders and put a shot off Henry Clay keeper Donovan Gregory. Gregory’s spill landed right at the feet of Andrade who had continued his run into the middle of the box.
“I just happened to be running toward the middle and just tapped it in near post,” Andrade said after the game.
The pressure that led to the goal had been building since the middle of the second half as Dunbar’s Curd and Pedro Jimenez harassed Henry Clay’s left with several dangerous counterattacking runs into the corner.
“When they were able to set in, they were really tough to beat,” Bretz said of the Blue Devils. “But we got them in a little bit of a counterattack, got a little bit more space and were able to get some numbers up.”
Dunbar (3-0-2) had more possession, a few more shots and had seven corner kicks to Henry Clay’s three. But the Blue Devils only gave up one corner in the second half as they adjusted to Dunbar’s pressure and began applying some of their own.
“Henry Clay played really hard and I’m glad (we) continued pressing, continued playing with the same desire because if (we) wouldn’t have, Henry Clay would have taken over the game,” Bretz said.
Henry Clay (2-2-1) benefited from three free kicks deep in Dunbar’s territory. One taken from about 25 yards out on the left side by Ethan MacGillivray with 30 minutes left in the game found the head of teammate Cameron Combs, but sailed just wide of the far post.
“I thought tonight Dunbar had more corner kicks, more shots and they probably deserved to win, but I thought our guys fought hard,” said Behler, who was a longtime assistant at Henry Clay before taking the reins this year. “It’s a learning process, and we’re learning every game. Disappointed in the fact we couldn’t hold a draw, but I’m not disappointed in the way my guys played.”