KNIGHTDALE — Clayton didn’t hesitate to take advantage of a short-staffed Knightdale soccer team in a 3-1 win over the Knights on Wednesday.
An early red card against senior forward Taylor Betts left Knightdale (0-7, 0-2 Greater Neuse River 4A) a man down for the majority of the game. A scrappy effort by the Knights pleased their coach, but didn’t keep the Comets (6-1-1, 2-0) from finding two second-half goals to put the game away.
“I think we played a lot better, even though we were a man down,” Knights head coach Andrew Vaglio said after the game. “We were more physical tonight, and I think that was the first time we played to our potential all season.”
Even as an opponent, Comets head coach William Williams was less optimistic about the disadvantage Knightdale took on in the opening minutes.
“Obviously, with (Knightdale) being down a man tonight, you hate that to happen to anybody,” Williams said. “It’s got to be tough for them.”
Sophomore forward Daniel Alioto put the Comets on top early, burying a loose ball in front of the Knightdale cage less than 10 minutes into the action.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Alioto said of the strike. “I’m always looking for lucky breaks and just finishing.”
The Knights, hungry for their first win of the season, were quick to respond to Alioto’s score. Just 30 seconds later, Betts found teammate Kyle Ferrell, a freshman, on a cross that knifed through the Comets’ defense. Ferrell finished to level the playing field, and the knot remained at the half.
“In the first half, we didn’t play our game at all,” Alioto said. “After halftime, coach (Williams) talked to us. We were able to score some goals and shut them down a little bit.”
Alioto scored his second tally of the match off a pass from fellow sophomore Connor Jones nine minutes into the second half. The goal was a cushion the Comets used to take control of the pace of the game, an aspect Williams identified as key to his squad’s victory.
“They played solid soccer,” Vaglio said of the Comets. “That’s the way they always play.”
Williams said his team settled in and other late-game adjustments proved successful.
“We got back to our play and kept the ball on the ground,” he said. “We passed it and worked it up the field, instead of trying to send the ball through every time.”
With less than 10 minutes to play, Alioto connected with sophomore forward Brandon Sainz, who provided Clayton with one final goal of insurance as time winded down.
“(Control) is what paid off at the end,” Williams said. “We controlled the ball a lot more, and when you control the ball, you’re going to get more opportunities.”
On Wednesday, Williams’ squad converted those opportunities into its sixth win of the season.