Before Solon can start running, it still needs to learn how to walk.
After two consecutive seasons in which the Solon Comets boys soccer team clinched a Division I district title, the Comets continued to be a work in progress when they tied Massillon Jackson 1-1 last Saturday afternoon at Stewart Field.
“It was back and forth,” Solon coach Mina Shahata said. “It wasn’t necessarily one sided defensively.”
It’s been a while since Solon (1-2-1) has won just one contests through the first four games. The last time the Comets got off to such a slow start was during the 2017 season when they stumbled to a 0-2-2 record.
It was a familiar feeling for the Comets, having scored only one goal or none in three of their first four contests.
Solon’s offense showed some life near the end of the first half and carried that into the second half when senior forward Brandon Silverstein scored off an assist from junior forward Emilio Canela inside the 47th minute.
“We put pressure on them and were able to get the ball,” Shahata said. “ Emilio flicked it on backwards with his head,and Brandon outran the defense and got in the box then finished it with his left foot in the left corner of the goal.”
After losing almost all of its offensive line to graduation, Solon’s new offense for the season is comprised of some familiar faces. That’s because most of the players on offense were on defense last year for the Comets. Silverstein, a focal point in the Solon offense, played defensive midfielder during his first two years on varsity.
The Comets’ senior has taken a shine to his new role on offense.
“Since day one Brandon has been working on his shooting,” Shahata said. “His shot on Saturday was on his weak foot and he just rocketed it. That was just his instinct and we applauded him for that after the game just because that’s not something a defensive midfielder can do which is to penetrate and make a run into that space and recognize once he gets into the box to shoot it. The goalie had the difficult time reacting because he shot it immediately. That’s a credit to his work over the summer.”
The Polar Bears scored the equalizer inside the 54th minute on a header by senior A.J. Grant with an assist by senior Ryan Buckler.
“It was a 50-50 ball in the air,” said Shahata. “Jackson was able to win that challenge and move the ball forward. They were able to get numbers in the box, and they got the ball wide to the left area. The left back crossed it into to Buckler who made the play on the ball to Grant, and Buckler played back it to him and Grant was able to head it into the goal.”
The Solon offense continued to remain aggressive and had several scoring opportunities near the end of the contest but could not convert.
“We did create multiple chances,” noted Shahata. “Toward the end, we had back to back scoring opportunities from outside the penalty box but we did not score on that. Jackson’s goalkeeper did a good job keeping his net clean after Brandon’s goal. Our attackers were doing a good job of getting in dangerous areas and making runs into their penalty box.”
While Solon played the “what if” game in regards to the missed opportunities on offnese, senior goalkeeper Ethan Smith turned in another strong performance manning the net.
“Ethan did very well,” said Shahata of his senior goalie. “He was basically our 11th player on the field. He was our first attacker on offense and he was doing a great job being a sweeper keeper on these long passes. He was able to come in and step up and clean up any balls that were over the top. He was able to collect and get out of dangerous situations.”
Smith’s performance last Saturday marked the second consecutive game in which he allowed one goal or none since being named the starting goalkeeper after Solon’s first contest.
The Comets are still trying to put the pieces together as they are only returning four starters from last year’s district title team but Shahata believes that Solon is on the verge of a breakthrough.
“We are getting better every game,” Shahata said. “Right now we’re walking, soon we’re going to be jogging and the goal is to be strengthening our system to mentally and collectively make it our first nature.”
The Comets will play at Olmsted Falls on Sep. 11 at 2 p.m. then host Greater Cleveland Conference rival Strongsville on Sep. 14 at 7:00 p.m.