Arlington’s set pieces doom Classical in D2 North

ARLINGTON — For one half of Tuesday night’s Division 2 North quarterfinal between No. 5 Classical and No. 4 Arlington, the visiting Rams kept pace with the Spy Ponders. Arlington scored the first goal of the game three minutes in and tested Rams keeper Daniel Cortes often but Classical weathered the storm and hung close, down 1-0, at halftime.

Then the Spy Ponders turned the tables and scored three goals in the second half to put the game away, ending Classical’s season in a 4-0 loss for the Rams.

“Arlington was extremely disciplined,” Classical first-year coach Eric Moreno, Jr. said. “I told the boys that the way they’d score would be on set pieces. Their first three goals were on set pieces. It was a big battle and Arlington was better than us. If we remained more disciplined on those set pieces it would’ve been a different battle. The scoreline doesn’t really describe what happened.”

Arlington’s star of the game was Francesco Valagussa, who scored two goals and dished one assist.

It was Valagussa that got Arlington started on the right foot in the early going. Valagussa cashed in on a penalty kick with 37:01 remaining in the half, putting the Spy Ponders ahead at 1-0. Arlington kept Cortes (five saves) and Classical’s defense busy through the rest of the half but the Spy Ponders couldn’t add to their lead.

“Dan had a great game,” Moreno, Jr. said. “There’s not much he could’ve done on the set pieces, penalty shots. It’s just too much to ask for him to save things like that.”

Classical trailed 1-0 at halftime and the Rams felt they were within striking distance.

Things went downhill for the Rams in the second half. Valagussa scored on a free kick with 33:12 left in the game. His shot snuck by Classical’s wall and rolled into the back of the net, boosting Arlington’s lead to 2-0. Arlington goals with 28:34 and 19:36 remaining put the game out of Classical’s reach. That was all the scoring the Spy Ponders needed to run out the clock and end Classical’s tournament run.

“We made a foul and they scored on a free kick (in the second half),” Moreno, Jr. said. “The guys know they had to stand them up, don’t foul and just contain. The third goal was off another set piece, a corner kick. These goals didn’t happen on open play, they happened on set pieces. The last goal, by then the guys were down and kind of stopped playing defensively. They were able to open up that fourth goal on us.”

Despite the loss, Moreno was proud of his team for a positive season. Classical won the Lynn City Tournament, earned the Northeastern Conference championship, went undefeated in NEC play and finished the season at 11-3-6- a major step forward for a Rams team that didn’t qualify for the postseason a year ago.

“It was an amazing season,” Moreno, Jr. said. “It was definitely a learning experience for this program. This program is capable of things but Arlington, you can tell they’ve been around this for a very long time. They’re a good team, they’re disciplined. It was a good experience because we need to see what it’s going to take for us to match this level. You go into the playoffs to play teams like this. Now we know what it takes to contend for a state title and that’s what we’ll try to build on.

“For my first year, this team made it an amazing journey,” Moreno, Jr. added. “I’m so humbled to have this position and I’m so grateful to give back. I’ve always loved this community and Lynn teams. I’ve watched us struggle for a while and I’ve always felt there was so much potential. Undefeated in the NEC, Lynn City Champions. Overall it’s been great.”

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