QUINCY, Mass. – In the 25th minute of a scoreless game, Paul Latif scrambled to position the ball for a free kick. He looked at Andrew Sousa, who glanced back. The signal.
Before the referee could chirp the whistle, Latif quickly pushed it to Sousa, who caught Ryan Brooks-Newton off his line and chipped it inside the far post.
And that’s how Saturday’s game was decided, as the Victory edged the Voltage 1-0 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We have a good connection, Andrew and I,” Latif said. “I just played it to him behind and I actually thought that I put too much on it. But he just managed to get there and slip it past the keeper.”
Before Sousa’s strike put it in Boston’s favor, it was the Voltage applying the pressure. In the opening ten minutes, the guests stormed the Boston end with Keagan McDonnell and Bozidar Jelovac threatening along the wings.
By the 20th minute, however, Boston began to take command by tipping the possession scale in their favor. And with the ball at their beckoning, the passing lanes opened up.
In the 24th minute, Sousa sent a pass ahead to Latif down the right and the Victory winger went to the end line and cut it back inside. But Voltage defender Ashley Walker calmly tapped to his keeper, Ryan Brooks-Newton, to extinguish the threat.
Seconds later, Boston found another opening. After Victory midfielder Matheus Assaf was fouled near the half-way line, Latif grabbed the ball, while still rolling, and played the free kick quickly ahead to Sousa. With the Voltage defenders scurrying back, Brooks-Newton raced toward Sousa, who tucked it inside the far post for the Victory advantage.
“As soon as Paul put the ball down, I saw (Vermont) fall asleep,” Sousa said. “So I just made a run through it. The keeper came out and I just chipped it over him.”
If the Voltage were snoozing when Sousa scored, they were wide awake once the second half arrived. Down, but not out, the guests came out of the interval full throttle.
Three minutes in the second frame, Jelovac went down the right and crossed it to Filippo Martinuzzi. But the enterprising defender’s header was stopped by keeper Vinny Papageorgiou.
Shortly after the hour mark, Elia Loius sent a corner toward Jelovac, who fired it out of Papageorgiou’s reach. But it was cleared away by David DeMello before any damage was done.
“I saw the (defense) fighting,” Victory head coach Sergio Taborda said. “They showed the spirit in the beginning (of the game). I saw it in them – never quitting, always fighting until the last ball. They had good concentration.”
The Boston back four kept the door shut in the waning minutes. A cross from Bo Vuckovic went unanswered thanks to quick clearance while a Louis free kick from the shadow of the area was dismantled by Boston’s four-man wall.
Although the Voltage pressed forward through stoppage time, the Victory held on to preserve the first home win in franchise history, and their first three points since their 2-1 win at CFC Azul on May 5.
“It was important,” Taborda said of the home win. “Everybody saw that in the first half, we have a great team. We played great soccer, but in the second half, we didn’t have the legs to keep up the same level (of tempo) in the first half. But it was important to win. It takes the weight off of our shoulders.”