An early goal for the Cactus Shadows Falcons spoiled a strong start to the season for the Flagstaff Eagles, with the 1-0 loss at home Monday their first of the season.
Coming off of a three-match week with a 2-0-1 record after back-to-back matches in the Valley last weekend, the Eagles conceded a goal to the Falcons just 10 minutes into the match with the two sides holding each other scoreless for the final 70 of the day.
“It was a weird game and a weird vibe today, there wasn't a lot of energy,” said Eagles head coach Mike Jenkins, adding that he wasn’t sure if the workload of last week or it being finals week contributed to the early struggle. “Today it was hard to dig out a lot of energy out of these boys, so we didn't quite play like we played last week.”
With little happening through the first few minutes, the Falcons broke away for the first and only goal of the match. Possessing the ball in the Flagstaff territory, Cactus Shadows easily worked its way into range before putting in the goal from close range.
“They seemed like we were just frozen in time for a second,” Jenkins said of his team. “(Cactus Shadows) passed the ball away and it was almost like a training thing for them.”
Flagstaff (3-1-1) rallied to control the pace of the game for much of the rest of the afternoon, with a free kick just outside the box following seven minutes later, but the shot ended up high over the crossbar. Another opportunity, on a chip shot above the goalkeeper’s head, ended up thwarted as the Cactus Shadows’ keeper maintained possession of the ball as he jumped up for it.
A pair of corner kicks in the final 15 minutes of the second half also ended up with no clear scoring threats, contributing to Flagstaff finishing scoreless for the second straight game. After scoring three goals against Coconino in the season opener, two against Moon Valley and four at Cactus, Shadow Mountain held the Eagles scoreless in a tie on Friday.
“Today we didn’t get the job done, even though we had possession and we were moving the ball around,” Jenkins said. “I felt like Cactus Shadows was allowing us to get involved in the play and we just could not capitalize.”
Looking to attack through the middle, the Eagles nearly connected on a pair of through balls in the middle of the box, but each pass ended up just out of reach of the attacker and rolled into the hands of Cactus Shadows’ waiting keeper.
With 19:28 left on the clock, a through ball opportunity ended with the Cactus Shadows keeper diving at the ball at the feet of an Eagle throwing off the timing. With the ball cleared away, the resulting corner kick again amounted to little for Flagstaff.
Five different set pieces, spanning the 12:55 mark to 6:39 remaining, all ended with no clear scoring opportunity for the Eagles, with a final frantic scramble ending in a shot deflected by a Cactus Shadows defender.
“That’s kind of one of the things we talked about is when times are down, we have to find our focus, we gotta dig deep and get the job done,” said Jenkins, who played without some of the team’s key seniors and had freshmen and sophomores on the field in crucial roles.
Done with regular season play until after the holidays, the Eagles will play at the AZ Soccer Showcase beginning on Dec. 27.