By Matt Feltz
Andrew Sousa’s 24th minute chip was all the Boston Victory needed to grab the first home win in team history, a 1-0 triumph over the Vermont Voltage.
Sousa’s second goal in successive games seemed to come from nowhere, as a speculative long ball from Paul Latif should not have troubled the Voltage defense. Neither central defender reacted, but Sousa latched onto the pass with an impeccably-timed run and lofted it over Voltage keeper Ryan Brooks-Newton.
The Victory (2-4-1) had gone five straight games without a win, but goalscorer Sousa and head coach Sergio Taborda agreed that Saturday night’s success was the true measure of the team.
“We just had a little lack of confidence with the bad start,” Sousa explained. “We know we have good players. And I think it’s starting to come together.”
Taborda praised the first-half performance, but saw room for improvement in the coming weeks, saying: “Everybody saw that on the first half, we have a great team. We played great soccer. Second half, we didn’t have the legs to keep up the same level as the first half. But what’s important at the end was the win.”
The teams traded chances during the first 20 minutes, though neither side could get a grip on the game. A dangerous third-minute cross by Voltage winger Bozidar Jelovac needed a sharp clearance from Pat Hamilton to avert further danger. Sousa got himself in superb position for a corner in the 7th minute, but his header sailed over the bar.
The Victory defense was called into action twice more before the goal. Another teasing right-wing cross nearly found the head of Keegan McDonnell, but Victory center backs Matthew Keys and Keegan Campbell teamed up to clear the ball away from danger. Two minutes later, Voltage striker Ognjen Perucica charged at the Victory goal after beautifully controlling an aerial pass. Again, Campbell was equal to the effort, halting the run and preventing Perucica from getting a shot on goal.
After Sousa’s deft chip earned a 1-0 lead, the Victory began to put their stamp on the match. Matheus Assaf and Zico Veiga found plenty of space on the right wing, though neither was able to add to the lead. Just after the half-hour mark, Assaf initially looked to have over-hit his cross, but the ball fell to Veiga at the edge of the 18-yard box. The Cape Verdean striker could not test Brooks-Newton as his shot was too high.
The pair combined again ten minutes later, and this time it was Assaf who shot high, after some slick footwork and a sharp pass from Veiga. Sousa had a chance to double the lead when he lined up a free kick just before halftime, but his effort was parried away by Brooks-Newton as the whistle blew.
The Voltage stayed on the sideline at halftime brooding over the deficit, and it did not take long for their first chance to even the score. Left back Anthony Buehler ran all the way into the box looking for a leveler three minutes into the half. Though he was able to get his head to the ball, he nodded it directly into the arms of grateful Victory goalkeeper Vinny Papageorgiou, making his first appearance of the season.
Assaf continued to torment the Voltage, once more finding space on the right wing in the 54th minute. Though Sousa was free in the center of the box, Assaf opted to shoot, and fired well high and wide of the goal. Four minutes later, he played an inch-perfect through ball to put substitute Lucas Pessanha through on goal. The Brazilian hesitated a second too long, allowing Brooks-Newton to cut down the angle and turn the shot wide.
The Voltage tried in vain to beat Papageorgiou, making his debut in goal in place of the injured Jordan Bar. Buehler again freed himself for a header off a 61st-minute corner, but it was deflected just wide of the post. Jelovac then prompted a diving save from Papageorgiou on the ensuing corner.
The last true chance for the visitors came in the 79th minute, when Victor Tozelli sprinted up from his center back position to make himself available in the box. Papageorgiou spread his arms and legs to narrow the window for Tozelli to shoot, and the defender’s shot struck him harmlessly in the chest.
The Voltage swarmed the Victory goal in search of a last-minute equalizer, but were unable to find a shot to test Papageorgiou. The stifling Victory defense clearly frustrated the visitors, culminating in a yellow card for Brooks-Newton in the 90th minute after shoving Pessanha.
The Victory players stayed on the field after the match to applaud the home crowd, but there will be little time for celebration. The team returns to action Wednesday night back at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy against Ottawa Fury, hoping to avenge last week’s 4-1 loss to the Canadian club.
Boston: Papageorgiou; Hamilton, Keys, Campbell, DeMelo (Sidibe 66); Resendes (Alves 90), Oost-Lievense (Fagundes 54), Sousa, Latif (da Silva 80); Assaf (M.Veiga 62), Z.Veiga (Pessanha 55)
Vermont: Brooks-Newton; Green, Walker (Karam 86), Tozelli, Buehler; Vuckovic (Boulanger 68), Gilbert, Louis; McDonnell (Maffey 86), Jelovac (Flynn 88), Perucica