Winston-Salem, NC – Wake Forest beat cross-town rival High Point 3-1 in a spring exhibition last week. Wake Forest was the better team throughout, but High Point improved in the second half, having better offensive chances.
In the spring, players change numbers, new transfers and incoming freshman start playing. Rosters are not updated until the spring. Luckily in this game, the school SIDs identified the new players. So, I have extreme confidence that I’ve identified the correct player with his number. Actually, in this match, the media relation contacts sent me a roster. Thank you both very much!
High Point: 4-1-2-2-1. Some may have called it a 4-3-3 with the wide midfielders getting up-top while the 2 central midfielders and the DM solidify the center. I saw that the 2 central midfielders had freedom to roam about the field while the rest of the team maintained their shape.
F: Karo Okiomah
M: Kendall Lawson, Fejiro Okiomah, Shawn Sloan, Shane Malcolm
DM: Adam Sewell
D: Ryan Bennett, Todd Ray, Will Stewart, Keith Cowdrey
GK: Michael Chesler
Wake Forest: 4-4-1-1. The midfield play in a diamond midfield interchanging the withdrawn forward and the attacking midfielder (Teddy Mullins) as needed.
F: Andy Lubahn
W/D F: Luciano Delbono
M: Kyle Emerson, Teddy Mullin, Jared Watts, Luke Norman
D: Anthony Arena, Danny Wenzel, Tolani Ibikunle, Chris Duvall
GK: Michael Lisch
High Point Observations:
The lone goal was scored by sophomore Shawn Sloan in the 85th minute on a penalty kick. The PK was earned by sophomore Fejiro Okiomah timing his run to get behind the defense, stepping around the goal keeper, Michael Lisch – who tripped him. The play started at midfield when sophomore Ryan Bennett got the ball to Sloan who quickly got the ball into the box. High Point
’s passing was abysmal in the first half, needlessly giving up the ball in their half – jump-starting the Wake Forest
transition game. They took better care of the ball in the second half.
Another major deficiency was that they permitted Wake Forest
attackers to sit in the space in front of their back line. Lastly, the High Point
defense intensity seemed to fade after the 80th minute. I surmise spring fitness is not up to the normal High Point
Sloan was a primary contributor for losing the ball. In the 62nd minute, he lost the ball at midfield on a square ball to Wake. But, Adam Sewell wasn’t much better. If the passing was accurate, then the receiving was lacking. It was a first half that typifies either a team that feels entitled and/or a team that hasn’t done the work to be successful against a quality opponent.
Brothers Karo and Fejiro Okiomah are a handful. They are both athletic, fast, and strong. They weren’t able to dominate an organized Wake defense. Fejiro confidently dribbled out of his own penalty area using a pasa da vaca to go around Luke Norman.
Left back Ryan Bennett is a good dribbler. He anxiously gets forward with quick feet. Bennett needs to improve the accuracy of his crosses. He creates space, serves a nice ball but he wasn’t able to find runners in the box. In his defense, a runner getting to the far post would have made an ideal target. Bennett provided a long diagonal in the 16th minute that found Shane Malcolm getting down the right side. Malcolm’s cross was cleared for a corner kick.
When Patrick Donahue came on in the 30th minute, he seemed to calm the midfield with his passing composure. However, Donahue was one of the players that didn’t apply sufficient defensive pressure that allowed Wake Forest
to tally their third goal in the 90th minute.
Right back Keith Cowdrey is comfortable on the ball and likes to get forward, but he needs to improve his 1v1 defensive skills. For example, he was nutmegged in the 45th minute by Luca Gimenez. Cowdrey has potential, though.
This was the first time that I’ve seen goal keeper Michael Chesler. I came away un-convinced – however, I felt the same way after watching a young Tim Ream early in his career against Duke. The next game Ream was much better and I soon came to appreciate his play. On the first goal, Chesler should have tipped the ball out of danger instead of allowing the ball to get over him, dip down and hit the cross-bar - though his defense did him no favors by not following the play. Additionally, Chesler decided to stay on his line on a free kick that drifted deep in his box in the 4th minute. I would have expected that Chesler would have done better on the initial shot that led to the second goal, because he allowed a rebound to the far post (right at the feet of the Wake goal scorer). I’d like to see him again in the fall when his defense is more stable, he should be sharper and it would be a better indicator of his skill/prospects.
There are two new High Point
players in the spring that High Point
has high expectations to perform in the fall.
Leon Carby is an incoming freshman who came on in the 30th minute as a left midfielder. Perhaps, High Point
is considering Carby replacing High Point
graduated senior Scott Rojo. He combined with Bennett in the 38th minute to get the ball deep into the corner (but Bennett’s cross was strong). In the 64th minute, he served a dangerous cross, but Chris Duvall made a sensational defensive header to stymie High Point
. In the second half, Carby rotated into the right back position for a few minutes, but he didn’t look very confident there – if I was the coach, I would have had a 3-chili ulcer. The one thing that I really liked was that Wake’s Teddy Mullin beat him on the dribble, and Carby recovered to stop Mullin. Good athleticism, good drive, good attitude (well, at least on this play).
The other player, Taurean Greenridge, a freshman from Barbados entered the game in the second half and is more of a project. He’s a good athlete and has confident ball skills, but he’s pretty raw.Wake Forest Observations:
The first goal was scored by an opportunistic Andy Lubahn in the 35th minute. On the play, Jared Watts hit a cracker from 30 yards that goal keeper Michael Chesler elected to go over his outreached hands, but the shot dipped and hit the cross-bar, ricocheting high into the air. The ball came down on the far side of the goal, 4 yards off the goal line and Lubahn touched the ball into the empty net. I can understand that Chesler couldn’t find the ball, but none of the defenders tracking back is entirely unacceptable.
The second goal was scored by incoming freshman Teddy Mullin in the 80th minute. Luca Gimenez drove the ball into the left-side of the box before unleashing a hard shot that Chesler dove to his right to stop, but Chesler did not hold onto the ball or tip it wide for a corner kick. The rebound found Mullin alone on the far post and Mullin buried the goal. I have to wonder who the High Point
left back thought he should cover.
In the 90th minute, the third goal was scored by Gimenez with an assist to Lubahn. On the play, Lubahn beat left back Bennett to get to the end-line, before dribbling back and across the top of the box with light tacit pressure through the box by High Point
. I would expect that the DM Donohue would have gotten back with much more urgency, but he was not the only High Point
player not exhibiting urgency defense on this play. Lubahn found Gimenez by himself - 12 yards from goal on the left side with no one marking him. Gimenez buried the shot.
While Wake Forest
was much better, they are going to need to improve significantly if they desire to return to their championship dominant years. If everyone stays healthy, Wake is a bubble NCAA team – I can’t believe that will be sufficient for Coach Jay Vidovich. They have a few of the pieces already – Lubahn, Wenzel, Arena, Watts.
But, the player that thoroughly impressed me was right back Chris Duvall. Besides his easily identifiable athletic ability, he has soft feet that make the ball die at his will. Duvall is eager to get up the line and aid in the attack. Most importantly, in the second half High Point
kept trying to attack his side and he kept shutting them down until they decided to try something else. Duvall was doing the little fundamental things such as turning his head to assess the time that he had to receive the ball.
In the 66th minute, Jared Watts stroked a precise long ball that Duvall settled before crossing toward Lubahn, but High Point
defender Will Stewart made a good defensive header to end the sequence.
Watts effectively changes the point of attack with driven balls that are extremely accurate. Watts reminds me of former Akron DM Perry Kitchen. I’m not exactly sure why, perhaps it’s the hair-cut, running style, defensive posture or maybe the way they both strike the ball.
Andy Lubahn is a good forward and he’s been consistently this way since his freshman year (well, I guess he could have been prior to WF, but I didn’t follow him then, and it’s all about me! (Editor’s Note: I did follow him before then and he was! – RZ) ). I like the way he can dribble with precision in tight spaces.
One surprise for me was that Anthony Arena played left back. I can’t recall him playing anything but center back. He did well. While I wasn’t concentrating solely on his play, he made some nice plays including a timely tackle on High Point
Patrick Donohue in the 42nd minute and a nifty trap bringing the ball down that came down over his shoulder with a soft right foot. A very nice play.Wake Forest
has an incoming freshman “sensation” with Teddy Mullin. He takes the set pieces – which I find surprising for a freshman on a good team. Watts took a 19 yard free-kick in the 42nd minute (when Mullin was on the bench) and Watts put it into the trees. So, maybe Jay knows what he’s doing! Mullin has exceptional touch. He seemed anxious – forcing some passes – but I’m not particularly concerned with this given more time on the field and quality coaching.
I like Luke Norman’s work rate, but he needs to take care of the ball better.
With the graduation of goal keeper Akira Fitzgerald, the new starter is Michael Lisch. I can’t blame Lisch for giving up the PK or not stopping it either. He did adequately – nothing spectacular. When Wake has possession deep, he moves up the field – all the way to the bottom of the center circle. Pretty risky. I think that he may have competition for the starting position with incoming freshman Matthew Pacifici (North Meck, USSF DA).
Coming off the bench Luca Gimenez sparked the attack. I expect that he’ll be in the starting line-up in the fall. He’s good on the ball, both dribbling and passing. While I don’t have notes concerning his defensive commitment (positive or negative), watching that would be something that I’ll need to do in the future.