CUMBERLAND – Central Falls High head coach Carl Africo doesn't ask former mentor Bobby Marchand to help him out with scouting, but – if he's going to offer – the former isn't about to argue.
Prior to the Warriors' Division I tilt against Cumberland on Wednesday night, Marchand told Africo he had seen the Clippers play at Barrington earlier in the week, and told him that junior striker Kyle Courtney had the speed and ball skills to be a thorn in CF's defensive side.
So, on the bus ride to Tucker Field, Africo chose to drop senior midfielder Peter Santos to defender, and also asked senior Julio Monroy to complement him – that is, when Courtney breaks to a ball downfield, follow him and mark up.
Excepting, perhaps, four times, the move worked wonders. And, offensively, senior quad-captain Cristian Rodriguez registered two goals and classmate Stiven Monteiro a goal and an assist as the Warriors cruised to a satisfying 4-1 victory at Tucker Field.
With the triumph, CF remained unbeaten in D-I action at 5-0-1 (6-1-1 overall), while head coach John Lopes' Clippers fell to 1-4-0.
“Stiven is one of the deadliest scoring threats in the state, but he's taken a back seat to Cristian,” Africo said after the game. “He now has four, but he's also got at least half-dozen assists. Cristian, on the other hand, scored, I think, his 15th and 16th goals of the season (on Wednesday), and he easily leads the state.
“The key in this one, I thought, was for us to remain focused,” he added. “On paper, Cumberland is very young, and they're seventh or eighth in D-I, and we were the only undefeated team left, along with Barrington.
“Still, John Lopes does a great job coaching that team; they play very physical and tough. Right from the start, they were trying to get it up high to their striker (Courtney), and he has the speed to break; but, from our one through 11, we're one of the fastest teams in the state. That's why we went with Santos … He has the speed and grit to stay on and pester (Courtney), while Julio has the speed to turn and sprint back into our offensive attack.
“We work very hard in practice to play this beautiful game and put our pressure on our opponents, and that's what we did for the most part in this one.”
Despite the final score, it looked as if the Clippers would get on the board first when, just two minutes into the match, junior Trevor Lopes drove a pass from the right side to a streaking Courtney. The latter, from point-blank range, rifled a liner at the left post, but it missed by mere inches.
Instead, Rodriguez gave CF the early 1-0 lead. Stiven Monteiro delivered a pass downfield, and Rodriguez accepted it on the left side, dribbled twice and – when junior tri-captain Remi Lussier came out of the net – Rodriguez drilled it inside the right post at the 19:10 mark.
The Warriors made it 2-0 only 10:10 later; that's when senior Jhony Gonzalez delivered a floating liner down the field toward the net, and Stiven Monteiro plunged through the scrum in front and headed it past Lussier.
In the final 90 seconds, Cumberland had a few chances to slice the deficit in half, courtesy of a junior Michael Lopes' left corner kick and three consecutive throw-ins by the master, Courtney, but all three were booted away by CF senior and quad-captain Juan Patino or his defense.
At the break, the Warriors remained on top, 2-0, though that didn't last long.
Just 8:58 into the final session, Senior Ben Bradley lofted a fly at Patino in the box, and Courtney flew to the ball and used his head to knock it inside the left post to make it 2-1.
Rodriguez, however, took advantage of an outstanding feed down the left side by fellow quad-captain Brian Figueroa at 17:41; the former juked a defender, dribbled once and fired just inside the left post and past a diving Lussier to make it 3-1.
At 25:38, it appeared Rodriguez had claimed the hat trick, but his approximate 12-yard liner caromed off the crossbar.
And, with just 11 minutes remaining, Courtney – stationed about eight yards off the left post – drilled a shot at Patino, but he made the sprawling save.
Alas, CF notched its final tally when Stiven Monteiro delivered a pass to senior and brother Freddy Monteiro, who chipped a shot over a leaping Lussier and just inside the netting's upper right corner.
All told, Lussier finished with 14 saves, Patino five. (It should be noted that, with 6:35 remaining in regulation, Africo chose to pull Patino for senior Juan Cortez, and he finished with two stops).
In the 89th minute, officials whistled Clippers' junior defender Tyler Mobrice for a foul, and they issued him a yellow card for it. For a few moments, Rodriguez remained on the turf holding his right ankle, and he walked gingerly off the turf with help from Patino.
“He got kicked in the ankle, but he'll live,” Africo grinned. “I don't foresee any major damage, but – as a precaution – I'll send him to Hasbro (Children's Hospital) to get X-rays.”
Stated Cumberland mentor Lopes: “I just think they're a very well-rounded team, and really skilled,” Cumberland mentor Lopes said afterward. “I know No. 7 (Stiven Monteiro) and No. 9 (Rodriguez) are very skilled.
“We have a lot of rookies, freshmen and sophomores, in the lineup, and – call it Murphy's Law – we've suffered some injuries to some key players,” he continued. “I don't want to make excuses. Central Falls is a good team, and they beat us fair and square.”