BOWIE – The ball was bouncing off the Bowie High School boys soccer team’s cleats rapidly as they began their attack. Moving around the field like worker bees, players never held the ball more than two touches and once it was released, they quickly moved into an open space, advancing the play forward in attack.
The attacking style, known as Tiki-taka, combines the speed of passing with player movement to keep possession for long periods of time. After playing a direct approach with more physical players last season, Head Coach Frantz Deetjen and his coaching staff began working on the more technical style during the off-season with their varsity team.
“We realized that we scored when we made combinations and Coach Ben [Onimole] has put a strong hold on working on the offense and developing a different system of play,” Deetjen said. “And it is my job to make sure it is implemented and since we have put it into action, it has been mighty successful. We are way more possessive, have more touches and are more disciplined on defense.”
The Bulldogs’ new approach tired out a competitive Charles H. Flowers High School side, resulting in 10 shots on goal. With all those opportunities, Bowie capitalized and earned their 11th straight victory to continue their undefeated season with a 6-1 win over Flowers on Oct. 4.
The reigning county champions (11-0) have been flying through their competition this season, winning their opening 10 games and earning six shutouts. However, the team had a minor setback this week when it was confirmed that starting senior midfielder Christopher Shoffler would miss the rest of the season due to an injury.
Bowie quickly adjusted to the loss of Shoffler thanks to their Tiki-taka style of play. There were several moments in the first half where the visitors were stuck chasing the ball, unable to free it off of Bowie’s aggressive possession.
“It took us a long time for us to build (the team chemistry) because we did not trust each other at first,” Striker Nathan Asamoah said. “But as practice came and we did drills, hung out with each other, we had the connection and we learned where each player was moving and going to be. It has been one-two pass and we have developed that so good.”
The Bulldogs struck first after senior defender Gabriel Brown snuck in a darting pass into the penalty area, in-between both Jaguar centerbacks, to find a streaking Melvin Peral. The junior quickly navigated the ball into the net to give Bowie an early 1-0 lead six minutes into the match.
Meanwhile, Flowers (1-5-1) were dealing with their own injury issues, forcing Head Coach Brandon Haslun to change the team’s formation to be more defensive. After surrendering the opening goal, Flowers’ defense suffocated any open space while sending counterattacks through junior Kuba Yiadom.
“They brought a tremendous amount of effort that was necessary for today,” Haslun said. “… I thought they did the best they could with that last-minute change and their effort kept us in the game.”
Bowie cracked through the sturdy defense with a five-pass sequence starting on the right sideline, ending with sophomore Cristian Chavez sending in a low cross to Asamoah for his first of two goals. Sulahumana Bah added the Bulldogs’ third goal four minutes after halftime.
Flowers defense continued to frustrate the Bowie attack, thanks to a five-save performance by junior goalkeeper Kevin Williams. However, a defensive error in the penalty area earned Flowers a red card and left them with 10 players for the rest of the match.
Bulldogs Captain Jonathan Sanford converted the spot kick to make it 4-0 with more than 20 minutes remaining. José Santos finally put Flowers on the scoreboard in the 60th minute but Bowie’s lead was too large to overcome. Chavez added his first goal of the match while Asamoah scored his second goal seconds before the final whistle ended the match.
“Even though we were up, we had to work hard to put them away,” Sanford said. “We have to get better at defending in the midfield for sure; we get split too easily and passes get through us too easily.”
There are still leftover feelings from last year’s state semifinals, where the Bulldogs lost 2-0 to Severna Park. Asamoah said that for many in the locker room, this year is seen as a redemption year to capture a state title before they graduated. Deetjen, on the other hand, wants his team to have a one-game at a time mentality as the rest of the county looks to give Bowie their best shot.
“They have to understand that state championships are nothing new as it has happened so many times at this school,” Deetjen said. “I need them to stop focusing on state championships and start worrying about game-per-game. If they can do that on a consistent basis, they will be alright. We cannot look at November when we have two games left in October.”