Winless, but right on the edge of victory on multiple occasions, both the Toll Gate and Pilgrim boys’ soccer teams came into Thursday’s match-up hoping that it was the day that the zero in the win column finally changed to a one.
It was the Pats who made it happen.
Pilgrim got two first-half goals from Luis Pimental and a penalty kick goal from Christian White in the second half to comfortably defeat the rival Titans 3-0.
The first two goals came just 11 minutes apart, and gave Pilgrim some breathing room en route to its first win. It is now 1-3-1 in Division II, while Toll Gate is 0-4-1.
“They played better,” Pilgrim head coach Bill Carroll said. “They moved the ball better than they have been. Not perfect, but it’s good for them to have a win. It will help them a lot.”
For Toll Gate, it was more of the same. The Titans have just four goals in five matches. They’ve been competitive, but unable to get the offense needed to pick up wins.
“We have some issues with getting the ball forward,” Toll Gate head coach Tim Hayes said. “We have to keep a lot of guys further back than we would like. When we get it, it will work. It’s a little bit frustrating that we can’t get a score right now. We’ll keep working on it.”
The Pats had lost two one-goal matches in the early going, but they got some much-needed offense in the form of Pimental early on.
After a back-and-forth first 13 minutes, Pilgrim took the lead in the 14th. Travis Cherry sent a pass up the right side to Pimental, who corralled it just in front of the goal line. He crossed the ball, but it slid behind Toll Gate keeper Steve Mathews and just crossed the goal line before it was cleared.
The referee, standing on the goal line, made the call, and the Pats led 1-0.
“It’s tough, when you don’t see the ball hit the back of the net, you always wonder,” Hayes said. “But the referee was right there, he was sure.”
Toll Gate made a bid to tie the score in the 19th minute, when Jose Beltran fired a shot from 30 yards out, but it sailed just wide and out-of-bounds.
Six minutes later, Pimental struck again for Pilgrim. David Saran dribbled hard up the left for the Pats, made a defender miss near the goal line and then centered the ball. In a crowd of players, Pimental got a foot on it and pushed it past Mathews to put the Pats in front 2-0.
“He’s a goal scorer, when he gets a chance,” Carroll said of Pimental. “The kids work with each other and move the ball.”
In need of a goal to get back in the match, Toll Gate started to get more chances. It took a corner in the 31st minute with no luck, and Beltran had a few decent looks in the final few minutes, but nothing would go in. In the 36th, Beltran was taken down in the box but no call was made, and the Titans trailed by the two goals at the half.
“They were great today,” Hayes said. “Pilgrim was awesome. I’ve got to coach better, get them better prepared so these things don’t happen.”
Playing without injured junior Nate DaCosta, Toll Gate found itself further shorthanded when standout sophomore Josh Sandin rolled his ankle and didn’t return.
Meanwhile, Pilgrim had extended its lead in the 52nd minute. A handball in the box on Toll Gate gave the Pats a penalty kick, and Carroll elected to bring up White – the team’s sweeper – to take the kick.
He drilled a shot into the left side of the goal to essentially put the game away.
“We know he makes them in practice,” Carroll said. “We have a knockout all the time, and he’s usually one of the last ones left in. I knew he could hit it.”
Toll Gate kept coming, but it could never get one past Pilgrim keeper Liam Strain. The Titans’ best opportunity came in the 61st minute, when Beltran fired one from close range that looked headed for the back of the net but instead hit the right post hard and bounced away.
Four minutes later, Beltran took a free kick from 30 yards out that moved just wide left of the goal.
Moments later, Toll Gate brought in some substitutes and the Pats coasted to the victory.
“There will be better days,” Hayes said. “It’s only one game.”
For Pilgrim, Carroll hopes the win can serve as a springboard. The Pats haven’t felt overmatched so far this year, and learning how to win might make for some brighter days on the horizon.
“We’ve been in every game so far and they’ve gotten nothing out of it,” Carroll said. “We got a win, and it will help them. We moved the ball well today, and we took our chances. They’re improving.”
Pilgrim was scheduled to be back in action on Monday at 3-0-1
Smithfield, with the results unavailable at press time. After that, the Pats will host 0-1-2 Providence Country Day on Thursday at 4 p.m.
Toll Gate hosts 1-2-1 Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday at 4 p.m.