CONCORD – The Concord Spiders were able to even things up with their fiercest rival on Thursday with a 1-0 win against A.L. Brown at Robert C. Bailey Stadium.
Thursday was the second matchup of the season for the two teams that were tied for first place the South Piedmont 3A Conference. And it was played as well as the first.
Senior forward Alex Mondragon had the only goal of the game to give the Spiders (14-1-2 overall, 7-1 SPC) sole possession of first place in the league as they crossed the halfway point in their conference schedule.
A.L. Brown won the first matchup between the teams on Sept. 17. That game ended with a 1-1 tie in regulation before the Wonders came out on top on penalty kicks.
Thursday’s game kept the Spiders in position to at least get a share of the SPC title for the second year in a row.
“It’s a great win for us, but we can’t lose the next two,” said Spiders coach Todd Tinsley. “The last thing was the (goalkeeper) Emmanuel (Konneh) stop at the end. And our game-winning scorer was playing great defense for us at the end there.”
Defense was the key for the Spiders all night, as they were able to capitalize on the few mistakes by A.L. Brown (12-1-2, 5-2 SPC) and create runs and scoring opportunities in the open field.
“It started from our defense and our crowd, too, since they cheer us on and they help us and motivate us a lot,” said Mondragon.
In the first half, much like the first contest, Concord dominated possession throughout.
The one scoring opportunity for the Wonders came early, when they pushed the ball forward and found the back of the net. The score was called off, though, as an A.L. Brown player was ruled offsides to preserve a 0-0 score.
“Hats off to (the Spiders), said Wonders coach Sean Szakal. “It was a one-goal match, which is how it was going to be. Unfortunately, we had ours called back and they got theirs. And, at that point, it was them hanging on and us not being able to put one in.”
With just 16 minutes left in the half, Concord had three shots sent to goal. Two went off the crossbar, and one was stopped by senior keeper Alex Palomares.
The Spiders were able to add a goal late in the first half when Mondragon sent one to the back left of the goal with just seven minutes left in the half. That score made it 1-0 and was the deciding goal of the match.
The Wonders followed the Concord score with a few late runs of their own before the Spiders took back possession to end the half.
Concord also was the recipient of a few set play opportunities and penalty kicks in the first half, but the Wonders always walled up and got the stops to keep the score at a manageable 1-0.
The second half was mostly balanced, with both teams trading time of possession and moving the ball well.
Concord had more opportunities at goal in the second half, as it did in the first, but the Wonders made some runs throughout. Though they had some attempts at the goal, Concord’s backline and its standout keeper, Konneh, always made the stops to preserve the shutout.
With just 6 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the game, Konneh stepped up and made a sliding save with his feet to maintain a Spiders lead.
That was the last push of the night for the Wonders, and Concord was able to celebrate its league-leading victory with the student section.
Both teams play again on Monday, with A.L. Brown facing Central Cabarrus and Concord playing Northwest Cabarrus.
The Spiders and Wonders will meet for the final time this season in Kannapolis on Oct. 22 for a potential league-deciding match.