By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — It took some timely offense.
And some timely defense.
But it all added up to another victory for the Pirates Friday night.
Michael Balseca and Nate Ruth each scored goals to lead Port Charlotte High School to a 2-0 win over Riverdale at home. Goalkeeper Hunter Cole and his back end held up their end of the bargain, keeping a total of 14 shots out of the net, which included three saves by Cole.
Port Charlotte (9-2-1) ultimately outshot Riverdale (3-6-2) by one in the game but was outshot 8-6 in the first half. Balseca gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 16th minute on an assist from Jeremiah Ruth, but coach Joe Roca said his squad was fortunate to have a lead at halftime.
“I was very happy with the second half. The first half was not that great to be honest with you but for some reason or another we’re still a second half team,” Roca said.
“Yesterday we went through this and told them what to expect from this team — they’re not that bad. They can play. And they played well. We got the win but we were not at our best except for the second half. I talked to them about it because we were not really passing the ball in that first half. We were all over the place with our passes. We need to have more patience passing the ball and that’s what we lacked.”
Riverdale easily could have led at halftime and nearly scored in the 13th minute. That’s when Abel Vargas sent a corner kick into the box, which Cole deflected with his hands right in front of the net.
That’s when things got interesting.
Trevin Myers came running in to slam the rebound but Cole deflected the ball again. The ball remained live, justfeet from the goal line, and it was Trevor Kleckley’s turn to try and finish it for the Raiders.
“I just got my hands on it and it started rolling across the goal line,” Cole said.
Kleckley put his foot on it, but instead of finding the back of the net, he found the foot of Port Charlotte defender Connor Gerofsky, who finally cleared the ball away for the Pirates.
“I was making a run in but I was horrified,” Gerofsky said.
But Cole had faith in his defense.
“I think we were fine after that,” Cole said. “It was just mistake that we all had and we steppe up after that and had a clean sheet.”
Riverdale stayed within reach until the 55th minute when Jeremiah Ruth sent a pass down the sideline to Noah Couto, who crossed it into the penalty box. Nate Ruth quickly gathered the ball and put it into the net passed to extend Port Charlotte’s lead to 2-0.
Ruth’s goal came against Vargas, who replaced Clay Doria to start the second half. The two goalkeepers combined for five saves.
Cole later preserved the shutout when Ivan Villafuerte came barreling towards the goal with the ball in the 74th minute, only to get thwarted by Cole right before the ball crossed the goal line.
“They were a very good team but they better team came out on top,” Cole said.