By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The Salem State men’s soccer team played right with UMass Boston yesterday but a pair of diving saves by Beacons keeper Alfonso Rosales and a converted direct kick in the first half kept the Vikings from grabbing their first win as the hosts fell 1-0.
“It was one of those days where we could have scored four or five (goals),” said SSU (0-4) head coach Don Goodwin. “It’s a matter of patience and poise in front of the net. With the rough start to the season, everyone is a little over-anxious, but I was very happy with the performance today.”
UMB’s Marcus Pizzetti converted a direct kick from just outside the box late in the first half for the only goal of the game. The Vikings wall didn’t jump and Pizzetti put just the right amount of spin and power to get the ball to tuck right into the short side of the net, leaving SSU keeper Nondas Kargakis virtually no chance to make a play.
Salem State nearly struck first early in the opening half when Salem native Max Mondestin ripped a left-footed shot from just outside the box. Rosales, though. sold out and was able to make a spectacular save.
In the second half, Mondestin forced a turnover and on a quick counter, fed senior captain Eryk Fernandez for a promising chance but again Rosales went horizontal to make the save. The Vikings had more chances than UMass but the Beacons (6-2 overall) were able to dig in and hang on for the win.
“I thought we were better in the first half but in the second half we were flat. But we hung on and a win is a win,” said UMass head coach Jake Beverlin, who talked about how his team kept the hosts off the scoreboard. “We always had numbers behind the ball. They had a lot of shots but only a couple came from in close.”
Mondestin was one of Salem State’s top performers on the pitch. His ability to force turnovers and get right on the attack generated a lot of opportunities for the Vikings.
“He’s a little wild at times — that’s part of his strength and part of his weakness. But when he’s on he’s incredibly dangerous. I would have liked to see him score today,” noted Goodwin. “Like everyone else, he’s a work in progress. We have to get everyone on the same page.”
Another Salem native stepped up in the losing effort only on the other end of the pitch. Dimitri Flessas was outstanding at defensive midfield especially in the second half where he thwarted almost all aerial attacks down his sideline with well-timed and well-placed headers.
The sophomore is usually more of an offensive guy but his talent is such that Goodwin needs him on the field. As the season goes on, Flessas should get better and better as he gets more comfortable with his defense.
Costa Hatziiannou (Danvers) also made his presence felt and offered a spark for the Vikings offense in the second half. Saimir Zepaj (Peabody) worked well in the middle of the field with Fernandez and put a couple of shots over the crossbar while fellow Peabody native Hysen Qoshja also saw playing time.
Chris Lull (Ipswich) and Jeff Iwanicki (Salem) contributed to what was an all-around promising defensive effort.