by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s varsity boys soccer team built on their perfect record with a 5-0 win over Strasburg High School on Friday, April 29.
Just one game this past week allowed Mason to focus solely on their second meeting with Strasburg, which, if the score didn’t already tell you, was different from their first match on April 5 when the Mustangs handled the Rams 10-0.
“They definitely played a better game than they did last time,” senior forward Elliot Mercado said. “They were more organized, but I guess that happens at the end of the season.”
Strasburg made things difficult for Mason, especially when backed up to their own goal, but they still failed to present a real threat. The Mustangs dominated time of possession and were constantly pressing the issue around the Rams net.
That persistence paid off. Mercado’s penalty kick seven minutes in put Mason ahead and a through ball from senior midfielder Grant Goodwin opened the door for Mercado again in the 14th minute, who went on to score his second goal of the game. A Mason corner kick in the 28th minute landed in heavy traffic before senior midfielder Samsudeen Sallah found the loose ball and knocked a grounder inside the left post.
Mercado completed his hat trick on a cross from senior midfielder Olo Sembera Baracco in the second half. Sophomore forward Kevin Valle scored the game’s final goal after gathering a deflection in a soft spot in Strasburg’s defense.
Exemplary as the Mustangs were against Strasburg, head coach Frank Spinello always understands there’s room for improvement, even in sizeable victories.
“We tried to get a little too cute at times, a little too much flare and not enough substance out there.” Spinello said. “Just trying to do something fancy every time. We got a little bit too into that mindset tonight.”
Spinello’s comments may refer to a few of the Mustangs who used no-look heel passes when leading teammates into Strasburg’s box, or to a few other players who repeatedly tried to dribble their way through the defense.
Regardless of who or what exactly Spinello was concerned with, the fact remains that he saw something of concern and addressed it. When a team like Mason is having a flawless season, it’s hard to find problem areas, let alone tackle them. But Spinello identified a bad seed and squashed it, showing the difference between a contender and a three-straight 2A state soccer champ in the process.
Mason welcomes Central High School to Falls Church for their next game on Friday, May 6.