By Josh Brown
TROY — Nitfy dribbling. Craftier passing. And the instincts to know what to do with the ball in the attacking third.
Troy’s offense showed how creative it could be Tuesday night — but there’s still work to be done.
A 3-1 victory over the Fairmont Firebirds was a solid first step for the Trojan boys soccer team, though, as Troy grabbed the lead early on and used that momentum to build toward as season-opening win at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“It’s nice to have that first win and start working on our confidence,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “It’s a slow process right now. As we go on, that will build even faster, but it will take time and we’re still working at it.”
Fairmont — the team Troy also beat for its first win last season, only then in its third match of the year — put pressure on within the first minute, testing the Trojans’ new-look defense. But junior goalkeeper Alex Williams turned away a shot and the defenders cleared the resulting corner — and the offense went right to work.
The Firebirds’ defenders, however, lazily passed the ball back to their own goalkeeper as Troy pushed forward, and Johan Trotter beat the goalie to a pass, won a 50-50 ball against him and got it forward to sophomore Grant Holland, who put Troy on the board with his first varsity goal only 2:10 into the game.
“You always want to get out of the gate early,” Phillips said. “Especially in your first match of the season and at home. It gives you the will to press forward and get another. Getting that first goal early was a big lift.”
Troy continued to create chances, using its dribbling skills and accurate passing to work the ball forward. Holland even got another shot at the goal with roughly 27 minutes left in the first half, but he ended up hurt and would not return.
That didn’t deter Troy, though, as with 7:32 left in the half Andrew Bricker sent a great through-ball forward to Jake Diffenderfer, who finished it strong for the first of his two goals to make it a 2-0 game. Fairmont’s Kyle Loftus ripped one past Williams with 4:05 until the break, but the Trojans carried a 2-1 advantage into halftime.
“That’s good to know that we have a resiliency about ourselves,” Phillips said. “After Grant got hurt, it showed that someone else can step up and help if someone goes down.”
The teams traded opportunities throughout the second half, but neither one could finish. Williams finished the night with three saves, only one of them coming after the break.
And with 13:27 to go, J.T. Yenney crossed the ball into the middle, but it appeared to be too long and headed out of bounds. Trotter made a heads-up play and headed it back into the box, though, and Diffenderfer scored the insurance goal to take the pressure off. A Fairmont header on a corner kick with nine minutes to go was the best chance to score from that point, and it was wide of the goal.
And even though Troy celebrated an opening-night win, it also knows there’s more work to be done.
“The offense needs to spread the field a little more and learn to use both sides of the field,” Phillips said. “We need to work together better. But eventually, we’ll build that confidence. It will just take time.”
Troy’s next step is a road game at Tecumseh Saturday afternoon.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.